Organize for the end of work
Good hideouts are getting rare, and to tell the truth it rather often means losing too much time to still go on being bored in them. Anyway they generally tend to be pretty mediocre conditions for resting and reading.
It’s well known that the individual exists so little that he has to earn his living, that he has to trade in his time for a little bit of social existence. Personal time for social existence: such is work; such is the market. The time of the commune escapes work straightaway; it doesn’t play along with the big scheme; it prefers other ones. Groups of Argentine picketers collectively maintain a kind of local welfare system, accessible by doing a few hours of work. They don’t record working hours; they hold their gains in common; they establish clothing workshops and a bakery, and set up gardens as needed.
For the commune, money can be had just by seeking it out, not by having to make a living. All the communes have slush funds. Schemes abound. Aside from welfare/unemployment income, there are allocations, sick leave monies, accumulated school scholarships, subsidies drawn off fictitious childbirths, all kinds of trafficking, and a lot of other resources that appear with every change in the control system. It’s not for us to forbid the use of them, or to install ourselves in makeshift shelters or to protect them like an insider’s privilege. What’s important to cultivate and spread is the necessary disposition to fraud, and to share innovations. For the communes, the question of work is only asked in light of other existing income. What useful knowledge might be gotten by passing through certain professions, training, or well-placed job posts should not be neglected.
The commune’s demand is to free up the most time possible for everyone. And we’re not just talking about the number of hours free of any wage-labor exploitation. Liberated time doesn’t mean a vacation. Vacant time, dead time, the time of emptiness and the fear of emptiness – this is labor time. There’s now no longer any time to fill, but a liberation of energy that no “time” contains; lines that sketch themselves out, that emphasize each other, that we can follow at our leisure to their ends, or until we see them cross over others.
Pillage, cultivate, fabricate
A couple old MetalEurop employees become thieves instead of prison guards. A few EDF employees pass along to their friends a way to rig the electricity meters. Hardware that “fell off the truck” sells like hotcakes. A world that so openly proclaims its cynicism can’t expect much loyalty from proletarians.
On the one hand, a commune can’t bank on the eternal existence of the “welfare state,” and on the other it can’t bank on living for all too long off of shoplifting, dumpster diving at supermarkets and at night in the warehouses of the industrial zones, misdirecting government subsidies, ripping off insurance companies and other frauds-- in brief: pillage. It must thus concern itself with permanently increasing the level and extent of its self-organization. It’s certainly most logical that the lathes, milling machines, and photocopiers sold at a discount after the closure of a factory should serve in turn to support some kind of a conspiracy or other against commodity society.
The feeling that the collapse is imminent is so vivid everywhere these days that we’d have a hard time enumerating all the experimentations going on right now in construction, energy, materials, illegality or agriculture. There’s a whole plethora of knowledge and techniques just sitting there waiting to be pillaged and torn from its moralist, street thug, or ecologist packaging. But this plethora is no more than a part of all the institutions, of all the different forms of social behavior, of that genius that characterizes the shantytowns, which we will have to make use of if we want to repopulate the metropolitan desert and ensure viability halfway through an insurrection.
How will we communicate and move about in a context where the flows have been totally interrupted? How will we restore food crop production in the rural areas until they can once again support the population density that they were still able to support sixty years ago? How will we transform concrete spaces into urban kitchen-gardens, as Cuba has done in order to withstand both the American embargo and the liquidation of the USSR?
Train and Develop
What’s left to us, we who have so completely worn out all the leisure activities authorized by commodity democracy? Whatever could one day make us go jogging on a Sunday morning? What keeps all these karate fanatics, these DIY, fishing, or mycology freaks going? What, if not just the need to fill up some totally idle time, to reconstitute their labor force or their “health capital?” The majority of leisure activities could easily cast aside their absurd character and become something besides leisure activities. Boxing has not always been reserved especially for doing demonstrations on the Telethon or for big, spectacular matches. China, in the beginning of the 20th century, torn up by hordes of colonists and starved by too long of droughts, saw hundreds of thousands of its poor peasants organize themselves to set up innumerable open-air boxing clubs, to take back what they had been despoiled of from the colonists and the rich. This was the Boxer Uprising. It’s never too early to learn and practice what less pacified, less predictable times might require of us. Our dependency on the metropolis – on its medicine, its agriculture, and its police – is so total at the present time that we couldn’t attack it without putting ourselves in danger. The unformulated consciousness of this vulnerability makes for the spontaneous self-limitation of today’s social movements, and causes our fear of crises and desire for “security.” It’s because of it that the labor strikes have usually traded the horizon of revolution for that of a return to normalcy. To free ourselves from this misfortune would require a long and consistent learning process, and multiple, massive experiments. We’ll have to know how to fight, how to pick locks, how to set fractures and deal with throat infections; how to build a pirate radio transmitter; how to set up street cafes; how to aim straight; how to gather together scattered knowledge and set up wartime agronomics; understand plankton biology; soil composition; study the way plants interact and thus rediscover lost intuitions; get to know possible uses for and connections with our immediate surroundings, and the limits we can’t go beyond without exhausting them; and we have to start to do all that today, and on the days when we’ll need to be able to get more than just a symbolic helping of food and a meager satisfaction of our other needs.
Create territories. Multiply opaque zones.
More and more reformists have started talking these days about the “approach of peak oil,” and about how in order to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” we will need to “re-localize the economy,” encourage regional supply lines, short distribution circuits, give up having easy access to imports from far away lands, etc. What they forget is that the nature of everything that’s done locally in economic matters is that it’s done under the table, in an “informal” manner; that this simple ecological measure of re-localizing the economy implies either total freedom from state control, or total submission to it.
The present territory is the product of many centuries of police operations. The people have constantly been pushed back -- out of their fields, then out of their streets, then out of their neighborhoods, and finally out of their building lobbies, in the demented hope that all life could be contained within the four sweating walls of a private existence. The territorial question isn’t the same for us and for the State. For us it’s not about holding onto it. Rather it’s a matter of creating density in the communes, in our circulation, and in our solidarity, to such a point that the territory becomes incomprehensible and opaque to all authority. It’s not a question of occupying, but of being the territory.
Every practice brings a territory into existence – the territory of the deal, or of the hunt; the territory of child’s play, of lovers, of a riot; the territory of farmers, ornithologists, or gleaners. The rule is simple: the more territories there are superimposed on a given zone, the more circulation there is between them, and the less Power will find footholds. Bistros, print shops, sports arenas, vague terrains, second-hand book stalls, building rooftops, improvised street markets, kebab shops, garages, could all easily be used for purposes other than their official ones if enough complicities can be found there. Local self-organization, superimposing its own geography over the State’s cartography, jams it and annuls it, and produces its own secession.
Travel. Trace out our own means of communication.
The principle of the communes is not to oppose the metropolis and its mobility with local roots and slowness. The expansive movement of the constitution of communes must clandestinely overtake that of the metropolis. We don’t have to reject the movement and communications possibilities that the commodity infrastructure offers; we just have to know their limits. It’s sufficient to be prudent enough, harmless enough. To drop by and pay a visit is anyway more secure, leaves no trace, and forges much more consistent connections than any Internet contact list. The privilege granted to a number of us of being able to “circulate freely” from one end of the continent to the other, and even across the whole world without too much trouble, is not a negligible asset when it comes to communications between pockets of resistance/conspiracy. It’s one of the charms of the metropolis that it allows Americans, Greeks, Mexicans, and Germans to meet furtively in Paris for a discussion on strategy.
Permanent movement between allied communes is one of the things that can protect them from emaciation and from the inevitability of renunciation. To welcome comrades, to find out about their initiatives, to ponder their experiences, to make use of new techniques they’ve mastered, does more for a commune than sterile consciousness-examinations behind closed doors. It would be wrong to underestimate what decisive ideas might be elaborated over the course of evenings spent comparing views on the current war.
Overturn all obstacles bit by bit
It’s well known that the streets are overflowing with incivility. Between what it really is and what it should be, there’s the centripetal force of all the police, doing their best to return order; and on the other side there’s us, that is, the inverse movement, a centrifugal force. We can only rejoice upon seeing fits of rage and disorder erupt wherever they may. Nothing surprising in the fact that the national festivals that aren’t really celebrating anything at all anymore are now systematically going bad. Whether sparkling or dilapidated, the urban furnishings – but where do they begin? Where do they end? – are but a materialization of our common dispossession. Persistent in their nothingness, all they ask is that we go back to them to stay. Let us contemplate what surrounds us: all this will have its final hour; the metropolis suddenly takes on an air of nostalgia, the kind that only fields full of ruins have.
Let all the incivilities of the streets become methodical, let them become systematic and flow together into a diffuse, efficient guerrilla war to give us back our ungovernableness, our primordial indiscipline. It’s disconcerting to some that indiscipline figures in so prominently among the number of military virtues that resistance fighters have. In fact, rage and politics should never be separated. Without the first, the second is lost to discourse; without the second the first exhausts itself yelling. Words like “enragés ” and “exaltés ” have surfaced again in politics, but not without warning shots being fired.
As for methods, let us remember the following principles for acts of sabotage: minimum risk in taking the action, minimum time, and maximum damage. As for strategy, let us remember that an obstacle that has been overturned but has not been submerged – a liberated, but uninhabited space – is easily replaced by another obstacle, one that is more resistant and less attackable.
It’s useless to dwell at length on the three types of workers’ sabotage: reduce the speed of work, with the “go-slow,” the “gusto strike ”; breaking the machines, or hindering their function; and the disclosure of company secrets. Expanded to the much vaster dimensions of the whole social factory, the principles of sabotage are generalized, from production to circulation. The technical infrastructure of the metropolis is vulnerable: its flows are not merely for the transportation of people and commodities; information and energy circulates by way of wire networks, fibers and channels, that could be attacked. To sabotage the social machine with some consequence today means re-conquering and reinventing the means of interrupting its networks. How could a TGV line or an electrical network be rendered useless? How could the weak points in computer networks be found, how could radio waves be blurred and the screens filled with white noise?
As for serious obstacles, it’s not correct to consider any and all destruction of them impossible. The promethean part just comes down to the proper use of fire, but without any blind voluntarism. In 356 BC, Erostratus burned the temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the world. In our times of total decadence, the temples have nothing imposing about them besides the funereal truth that they are already ruins.
Annihilating this nothingness isn’t just some sad, dull task. Those who participate in that annihilation find a new youth in it. Everything suddenly makes sense and comes together; space, time, friendships. All available means are made use of, and ways of using them are rediscovered; we are but arrows. In the misery of the present, “fucking everything up” will perhaps – not without reason, it must be said – serve as the final collective seduction.
Stay invisible. Put anonymity on the offense.
In a demonstration, a unionist pulls the mask off an anonymous protester who had just broken a window: “Assume responsibility for what you’re doing instead of hiding yourself.” To be visible is to be out in the open – that is, above all to be vulnerable. When the leftists of all nations continually make their cause more “visible” – whether that of the homeless, of women, or of immigrants – in the hope that it will get taken care of, they’re doing exactly the opposite of what they ought to. To not be visible, but rather to turn to our advantage the anonymity we’ve been relegated to, and with conspiracies, nocturnal and/or masked actions, to make it into an unassailable attack-position. The fires of November 2005 offer a model. No leader, no demands, no organization, but words, gestures, complicities. To be nothing socially is not a humiliating condition, the source of some tragic lack of recognition (to be recognized: but by who?), but on the contrary is the precondition for maximum freedom of action. Not signing your name to your crimes, but only attaching some imaginary acronym – people still remember the ephemeral BAFT (Tarterets Anti-Cop Brigade) – is a way to preserve that freedom. Obviously, one of the regime’s first defensive maneuvers was to create a “suburban slum” subject to treat as the author of the “riots of November 2005.” Just take a look at the ugly mugs of those who are someone in this society if you want help understanding the joy of being no one.
Visibility must be avoided. But a force that gathers in the shadows can’t escape it forever. Our appearance as a force has to be held back until the opportune moment. Because the later we become visible, the stronger we’ll be. And once we’ve entered the realm of visibility, our days are numbered; either we’ll be in a position to pulverize its reign quickly, or it will crush us without delay.
We live under occupation, under police occupation. Illegal immigrant round-ups in the middle of the street; undercover cop cars criss-crossing the boulevards; metropolitan neighborhoods pacified using techniques forged in the colonies; the declarations of the minister of the Interior against the “gangs,” declarations worthy of the Algerian war; these things remind us of that fact every day. There are enough reasons to not let ourselves be crushed anymore, and to start to commit to self-defense.
As a commune grows and spreads, it sees power’s operations target its very substance. Power’s counterattacks take the form of seduction, recuperation, and as the last recourse, brute force. Self-defense must be a collective, obvious fact for the communes, as much practical as theoretical. Preventing an arrest, gathering swiftly and in large numbers against expulsion attempts, sheltering one of our own, will not be superfluous reflexes in coming times. We cannot ceaselessly reconstruct our base. Let us cease denouncing repression and instead prepare to meet it.
It’s not a simple affair, since as an increase in police work being done by the population itself is to be expected – from informing to the occasional membership in the citizens’ militias – so the police forces melt into the crowd. The catch-all standard police intervention, even in riot situations, is now the cop in civilian clothes. The efficiency of the police during the last anti-CPE demonstrations was due to those civilians that mixed in with the crowd and waited for an incident before showing themselves with gas, billyclubs, flash-balls, arrests; the whole shebang, in coordination with the “order-keeping services” of the unions. The simple possibility of their presence was enough to suggest the thought to the demonstrators: who’s who? And to paralyze actions. Though a demonstration is certainly not a way to stand and be counted but rather a space to take action in, we’ll certainly have to equip ourselves better with resources to unmask the plainclothesmen, chase them off, and if need be pull the people they’re trying to arrest away from them.
The police are not invincible in the streets, they simply have the means to organize, train, and test new weapons endlessly. Our weapons, on the other hand, are always rudimentary, DIY, and often improvised then and there. They certainly don’t have a hope of rivaling them in firepower, but are intended to hold them at a distance, redirect their attention, exercise psychological pressure or force passage and gain ground by surprise. All the innovations deployed in the French police’s urban guerrilla preparation centers are manifestly insufficient, and will doubtless always be insufficient, for making an adequately rapid response to a moving multiplicity that can strike a number of places at a time and above all tries to always keep the initiative.
The communes are obviously vulnerable to surveillance and police investigations, by undercover cops, feds, or otherwise. The waves of arrests of anarchists in Italy and of eco-warriors in the US were permitted by phone-tapping. All police custody now implies getting your DNA taken to put into an ever more complete index. A squatter from Barcelona was caught up with because he’d left his fingerprints on the tracts he was distributing. Filing methods are ever improving, mostly with biometrics. And if the electronic identity cards are put in place, our task would only be that much more difficult. The Commune of Paris partly solved the filing problem: by burning the City Hall, they destroyed the civil status records. Ways to destroy forever all the rest of the computerized data remain to be found.