Wednesday, October 1, 2014
The ingenuity of the Imaginary Party's essay on Blanqui is that it goes way beyond merely contextualizing Blanqui; it even goes beyond trying to defend the indefensible Blanqui, the revolutionary who is unacceptable to everyone, especially self-proclaimed revolutionaries. "To a friend" (as the preface is also known) aims to be a modern Blanquist statement: an advancement of Blanqui's own ideas and actions by people unafraid to be called "Blanquists." Who will stop these "agents" of the Imaginary Party from seizing these positions? No one. This terrain is completely empty of other combatants; and no one will want to re-take it once it has been seized. A very neat trick: affirm Blanqui by negating his absence. And, more importantly, a very meaningful gesture: there are other once-revolutionary terrains can be re-taken by agents of the Imaginary Party without firing a single shot.
Part of the introduction from translator's collective
3 June 2009
"To a friend"
"To judge from the current disposition of people's minds, communism isn't exactly knocking on the door. But nothing is as deceptive as the situation, because nothing is so changeable." (Blanqui)
We are still afflicted by many superstitions. We have our collective hallucinations that are only doubted by the crazy, and our images of ourselves that are only distinguishable from those of yesteryear by being more secular. We meet our equals and we sincerely believe we see persons and people. We love someone, and we speak of "the Other." A century separates us from a certain life and we postulate it as being faraway. Dissimilar customs or a few variations in vocabulary are sufficient to convince us of an uncrossable distance. But what we understand can only be a part of ourselves; what we understand cannot go much further [than that]. Enlighten yourself: Blanqui is not a historical person. He does not return to us as a phantom from the 19th century, though a century can traverse the ages. Blanqui is from yesterday, tomorrow, today. Blanqui did indeed exist, the facts attest to it, but the facts also attest to the fact he existed, above all, as a conceptual persona, like Nietzsche's Zarathustra, Bataille's Gilles de Rai or Artaud's Heliogabale. From whence comes Blanqui's proper eternity. Gustave Lefrancais notes in his Souvenirs: "For the 400,000 voters of la Seine, 'Blanqui' is a revolutionary expression." The name 'Blanqui' relates, not to a person, but to an existential possibility, to a manner of being-there, to a power of affirmation. If Blanqui was named "the Imprisoned One," this was in part due to his three decades in jail, but also due to the stubbornness with which this power remained in the historical figure of Blanqui. Prison, glory and calumny are the means that opportunely command the necessity of isolating [human] existences that are too ardent.
The universal desire to be someone, to be recognized, founds the comic atrocity of our era and gives it an aspect of free improvisation in the midst of crazy people, an open-air theatre of narcissistic pathologies of all kinds. We divert our glance from this bad show. We imagine a being who could not close his or her eyes to the horror of the present (this canvas of boredom, injustice, stupidity, separation and cynicism, the disastrous coherence of which is guaranteed by the police); a being who a kind of infirmity, certainly, but also perhaps some spirit of defiance had rendered unable to remain at peace with such a state of things; a being who had also found, while still young and in the midst of rioting, fires and conspiracy, the exact contraries of what he saw around him: intelligence, courage, adventure, friendship and truth. Such a being -- and there is no doubt that there were a number of people who, at that very moment, lived and sought each other out -- would be Blanqui, as much as Blanqui was Blanqui. Each moment of his life, each beat of his heart, would be propelled by these unique questions: How to do it? How to constitute a revolutionary force? How to win? Historical figures are there to provide screens for the powers that carry them. Nothing is simpler, clearer, more communal than Blanqui. And this is precisely why it will be necessary to cloud this menacing clarity with so many calumnies, rumors and dirty water. There is no "Mystery of Blanqui," despite all of his nocturnal intrigues, secret enterprises and [other] confabs. There is only bottomless evidence of a revolutionary existence. But what devil drove him? How could he still attempt, how could he still want to apply himself, always and forever, to theorizing [penser] the situation after so many betrayals, losses and disappointments? And what does it all mean? Don't worry, spectators: he will cave in one day and you will be able to whisper about him. Or he will triumph, and you will succumb. By waiting [for Blanqui], he will be your obsession; it will be your possibility that you will exhaust by incessantly conjuring him up.
"The me has always left me cold." This is what Blanqui opposed to the malevolent hysteria, to the concert of jealousy that his very nature sufficed to unleash. And this redoubled the din. He who does not deign to respond to his accusers, who have in their turn circulated rumors, he must expect to see them become exaggerated, then dry up into thin streams of bile. Warning to the activist milieus:
"If you encounter these personal hatreds, jealousies and rivalries of ambition, I will join with you to weaken them; they are one of the scourges of our cause; but remark that they are not a special plague of our party; all of our adversaries suffer from them as we do. They only explode with greater noise in our ranks because of the more expansive character and more open morals of the democratic world. Furthermore, individual struggles focus on human infirmity; it is necessary to resign oneself to such weaknesses and take men as they are. To lose one's temper about a fault of nature is puerile, if not stupid. Firm spirits know how to navigate through the obstacles that can't be removed but which can be avoided or overcome by anyone. Thus, we know to yield to the necessity and, deploring the evil, never slow down our march. To repeat: the truly political man doesn't keep obstacles in mind and instead goes straight ahead, without otherwise worrying about the pebbles on the road ahead."
This is in the letter to Maillard. Read it.
Dionys Mascolo said something about Saint-Just that is also worthy of Blanqui: "Saint-Just's 'inhumanity' lay in the fact that he didn't have several distinct lives, like other men, but a single one." The custom among human beings is to let life go by. The hand on the shoulder that says, "Go, have no cares, it will pass," is the best-known carrier of this grippe. Thus, 'inhuman' is the one who devotes herself to the highest intensity she has encountered like a truth. The one who does not oppose herself to the shock, to the motion of experience, the hesitations of bad faith, skepticism and comfort. She becomes a force in her turn. A little discipline, and this force -- the force that attaches her to this intensity -- will successfully organize the maelstrom of attractions that compose all of us and imprint upon them a unique direction. What spectators stupidly call "will" is instead an unreserved abandon. For Blanqui, the intensity was insurrection. It was insurrection that, from the first days of July , polarized his existence. "Liberty, equality, fraternity" is a decoration in bad taste for the porticoes of schools; for some it is also the most succinct expression of the experience of being in a riot. "Liberty, equality, fraternity" in street combat, facing death. It is still too soon to say how many Blanquis were born to the world in Genoa [Italy] on 20-21 July 2001. So many have already died from being unable to find, in the desert of the real, the road that leads there. "Weapons and organization -- these are the decisive elements of progress, the serious means by which to have done with poverty! He who has iron, has bread. We grovel before the bayonets; we sweep away the unarmed crowds. France bristles with workers in arms: it is the advent of socialism."
We lead ourselves astray by reviving the specter of "the superman." Blanqui's enemies amply take up this question. "Somber temperament, haughty, unsociable, hypochondriac, sarcastic, great ambition, cold, inexorable, pitilessly breaking men to pave his road. Heart of marble, head of iron." "The head and heart of the proletarian party in France" (a journalist). "The most cynical of the demoniacs conjured up by the fear of modern society" (a reactionary). These are maneuvers suited to assure the isolation of a being outside the prisons. The superman is a toy, as man is a chimera. It is sufficient to distinguish between the mediocre existence that floats and navigates by what is possible, and the settled existence that is attached to a truth and works and makes headway from it. It isn't curious that the word "destiny" [destin] is derived from the [Latin] verb destinare, which means "to attach." He who becomes devoted [s'attache] must become less and less a "person" and more and more a presence. Less and less "human," but more and more communal, simpler. With good cause, the subject of such an attachment is treated as "irreducible," because it is no longer reducible to itself. For our part, we are please to name the reducible the crowd of those who, taking themselves for people, betray themselves at every moment.
On the eve of the proclamation of the [Paris] Commune, [Adolphe] Thiers took Blanqui away. He kept Blanqui in secret and refused to exchange him for sixty-four hostages, including the Archbishop of Paris. Flotte recounts this remark by Thiers: "To bring Blanqui to the insurrection is to send him a force equal to an armed corps." Blanqui is feared, and even in his own party, not as a leader, but as power. He knows how to show his abilities in [both] action and thought, and to practice [tenir] them together. One need search no further for the origin of the implacable hatred and the unfailing loyalty that Blanqui inspired. "The tribunes compare [s'addresser] the heroic and barbaric beastliness of the multitudes to a wild bearing, the lion's face, Taurus' neck. As for Blanqui, the cold mathematician of revolt and reprisals, he seems to hold between his thin fingers the tally [le devis] of the sorrows and rights of the people" (Valles, L'Insurge). Blanqui addressed himself to justice and determination; he addressed himself to his equals. Unlike a leader, he neither flattered nor snubbed anyone, and he preferred to keep people at a distance than to take the risk of [mutual] seduction. By his very existence, he contradicted all the bourgeoisie's propaganda, which -- before turning insurgent Parisian proletarians into piles of cadavers as tall as barricades -- began by painting them as a shapeless mass, as a brainless Plebian class of thieves, drunks, prison-escapees, headless devils, creatures that were unintelligible, monstrous and foreign to all humanity. And so: there is a logic of revolt. There is a science of insurrection. There is an intelligence in the riot, an idea of upheaval. It is necessary to have all the class-hatred of de Tocqueville to fail to recognize it.
"There then appeared in front of the tribunal a man who I only saw that one day, but whose memory has always filled me with disgust and horror. He had haggard and sunken cheeks, white lips, a sickly, wicked and unclean air, a dirty pallor, the bearing of a moldy body, apparently no underclothes, an old black frock coat gathered about thin and emaciated limbs. He seems to have lived in a cesspool and crawled out; one told me that this was Blanqui." (Souvenirs).
"Sink the Romantics!" These were Blanqui's first words, while he was still sweating, covered with gunpowder, at the end of the three days in July 1830. There is indeed a romantic feeling for life that extends down to us and even more profoundly infests our era than the previous century. Musset codified it once and for all in 1836, in the first few pages of La Confession:
"A feeling of inexpressible malaise thus begins to ferment in all the young hearts. Condemned to rest by the sovereign of the world, delivered up to the pedants of all species, to idleness and boredom, the young people see recede from them the foaming waves against which they had prepared their arms (. . .) At the same time that the life of the beyond was so pale and petty, the inner life of society took on a somber and silent aspect; the most severe hypocrisy reigned in morals (. . .) This was like a denial of all things in heaven and on earth, which one could disenchantedly name despair, as if lethargic humanity had been thought dead by those who felt its pulse. In the same way that the soldier of yesteryear -- whom one had asked, "What do you believe in?" -- answered "In me," the youth of France would today say "In nothing.""
All that has been valuable in the last two centuries -- in all domains -- has been made against the romantic feeling for life, that is to say, by keeping it in mind. Lautreamont's Poesies, Chklovski's Lettres de non-amour, Deleuze and Parnel's Dialogues, and Gang Of Four's album Entertainment mark out a front that includes Durruti's cold passion, Lenin's best intuitions, Italian feminism, Huey P. Newton's speeches, the urban guerrilla and the wind that blows through la villa Savoye. All this reveals what we would, in opposition, call the Blanquist feeling for life. [His texts] L'Eternite par les astres and Instructions pour une prise d'armes are the purest expression of it in this volume. Starting with what is here, and not with what is missing, with what (as they say) will default on the real. Never wait; operate with those who are there. Learn oneself, learn [other] beings and situations, not as entities, but as intersections [parcourus] of lines and planes, traversed by misfortunes [fatalites]. No afterlife, reveries, recriminations or explications. "One only consoles oneself too much." To renounce the idea of chaos, the simple mental transcription of renunciation -- "The shadow of chaos never existed, it will never exist, anywhere." Once what is there is accounted for, get organized. Do not recoil from any logical consequence. Those who speak of revolution without concerning themselves with the questions of arms and supplies already have cadavers in their hands. Leave the questions of origin and finality to the metaphysicians; the here-and-now is our only starting point, and what we can do practically is our only serious goal. If the state of things is untenable, it is not because of this or that, but because I am powerless within it. Never oppose the necessities of thought and action. Remain firm in moments of ebb, when one must start again, alone, from the beginning: one is never alone with the truth. Such a way of being can find no excuse in the eyes of those for whom life is only a scholarly collection of justifications. Faced with this Blanquist way of being, resentment hurls invectives; it denounces "the taking of power" and "megalomania"; it erects its security corridors of bad faith, stupidity and contentment; it announces the banning of the monster that seems to be in the process of extricating itself from the human herd.
But when a sincere man, leaving aside the fantastic mirage of the programs and the mists of the Kingdom of Utopia, leaves the [romantic] novel to enter reality; when he speaks seriously and practically -- "Disarm the bourgeoisie, arm the people: these are the first necessities, the only signs of the health of the revolution" -- oh! then indifference vanishes and a long howl of fury resounds from one end of France to the other. Sacrilege! Patricide! Hydrophobia! There is rioting; the furies are unleashed upon that man; he is condemned to the infernal gods for having modestly spelled out the first words of common sense.
The partisans of waiting have always used the adjective "Blanquist" as an unanswerable insult. The purists among the anarchists use it as a synonym for "Jacobin," while the Stalinists used it as the equivalent of "anarchist." The cultivated imbeciles of the Encyclopedia of Nuisances, who for twenty years have had the lucid courage to relentlessly bet on counter-revolution, have [also] spoken of the Unabomber's "imaginary Blanquism" so as to better dissociate it from his gestures, and thereby introduce their grossly falsified translation of his Manifesto. Among Marxists, "Blanquist" is a synonym for "putschist" that denounces an avant-garde adventurism and a haste to get organized without due care for theory, while the masses are not always ready for it. All this surface confusion is of no interest. "Let's go! With patience, always! With resignation, never!" That is the Blanquist way. The alternative is not between waiting and activism, between participating in "social movements" and forming an avant-garde army; it is between being resigned or organized. A force can grow in an underground [sous-jacente] manner, according to its own rhythm, and can seize the time at the opportune moment. If the success of the October coup d'Etat had value for the Bolsheviks [in the form of] the admiration of a crowd of followers and opportunists of all nationalities, the unfortunate attempts of Blanqui -- surrounded with an evil aura -- at least had the merit of distancing him from this race of wood lice. In its text On the armed struggle in Western Europe, the Red Army Faction cites a passage from the famous article on partisan warfare written by Lenin: "In an era of civil war, the ideal of the party is a militarily engaged party (. . .) In the name of the principles of Marxism, we categorically demand that one does not dodge the analysis of the conditions of the civil war via cliches and worn-out phrases about anarchism, Blanquism and terrorism, and [we demand] that one does not come to discuss with us the scarecrow of certain absurd procedures applied by such and such organization in a war fought by partisans."
He who becomes absorbed in a destiny finds himself on equal footing with those who share it. The experience of friendship is the sweetest effect of such discipline. "I regard having made alliances and friendships with several hearts capable of great affection and great sacrifices like a conquest; it is an ability that everyone has." Just as love falls under the heading of the romantic cesspool, friendship belongs to Blanquist joy. It is that rare form of affection in which the horizon of the world does not disappear. Hannah Arendt says that "friendship is not intimately personal, but poses political requirements and remains oriented towards the world." Here beings belong to each other in a free state, that is to say, each belongs to the others as much as each always-already belongs to a destiny. If Cicero's Lelius foresees the dangers of secession that friendship poses to the City, it is because an unjust world, a detestable society, doesn't get forgotten in friendship as [it does] in the suffocating ecstasies of love. It still has the chance to orient itself against such a world, against such a society. To speak in blunt terms: today, all friendship is in some way at war with the imperial order or it is only a lie.
Lacambre, Tridon, Eudes, Granger, Flotte and the majority of Blanqui's co-conspirators were at first only friends who did not repress their latent politics. Conversely, all friendships have a conspiratorial kernel. In 1833, Vidocq deplored the fact that there were more than a hundred secret societies in Paris. Any history of the revolutionary movement in France between 1830 and 1870 carries the trace of the societies that -- clubs as far as the regime would permit -- changed into hotbeds of clandestine propaganda or conspiracies when repression came and once again became clubs the moment that the regime vacillated. In 1848, there were no less than 600 [secret societies] in Paris, including -- to mention only one -- the club of l'Emeute revolutionnaire, located at 69 rue Mouffetard and presided over by Palanchan, an old accomplice of Blanqui. The official history of the workers movement has it that the conspiratorial tradition -- with its oaths, admission rituals and secret decorum -- succumbed during the development of the workers movement, though it had been its crucible. Did not the members of the League of the Just, ancestor of the League of the Communists, participate in the aborted insurrection of 1839, launched by the Society of the Seasons? Wasn't it Buonarroti who delivered the precious message of Babeuf to the modern world? Certainly one wasn't admitted to the so-called Revolutionary Communist League as one was admitted to the Association of Egalitarian Workers in 1839.
"Listen with confidence and without fear: you are with communist republicans and consequently you now begin to live in the era of equality. They will be your brothers if you are loyal to your oath, but you will be forever lost if you betray it. They have all sworn to it just as you have sworn to it. Always listen with the greatest attention: the community is the veritable republic: work in common, communal education, property and pleasure; it is the symbolic sun of equality, it is the new faith for which we have all sworn to die! We know no borders, boundaries, or homeland; all communists are our brothers; the aristocrats [are] our enemies. Today, if you fear prison, torture or death; if you find your courage to be weak; you should withdraw. To enter our ranks, one must confront all that: once the oath has been taken, your life belongs to us; you have risked your neck  and that of the one who will lead you for the rest of your days. Reflect and respond."
With the end of the era of conspiracies, the workers movement supposedly passed from its infantile to its adult phase, from night to light. At least according to Marxist historiography. The public organizations of Social Democracy took up the slack from shapeless proletarian politics. From the League of the Communists one proceeds by degrees to the International Association of Workers and the existence of Social Democrat Parties in all countries [of Europe], while the anarchists [supposedly] sank stupidly into terrorism and syndicalism. The truth is that conspiratorial politics never ended. [Supposedly] all the traditional links, all the familiarities based on trade and neighborhood -- the village, in short -- on which proletarian politics rested until the Commune have been irreversibly destroyed. And that the organizations that have substituted themselves for a thenceforth missing "people" have only demoted [repousser] the conspiratorial to "the informal" and have consequently de-ritualized all that depends upon friendship. At bottom, the conflict between Marx and Bakunin concerning the International and its alleged infiltration by an obscure International Alliance of Socialist Democracy (founded by Bakunin) came down to this: on the one side, a politics based on programs and, on the other, a politics founded on friendship. A Prussian, Karl Marx did not expect the sad end of the League of Communists due to his hatred of the politics of friends. His 1850 review of Chenu's book Les Conspirateurs already oozed pure hostility.
"The entire lives of these professional conspirators are marked by the sign of Bohemia. Recruiting-sergeants for conspiracy, they shuffle from wine merchant to wine merchant, feeling the pulse of the workers, choosing their people, attracting them to [the] conspiracy by dint of cajoling them, and charging to the firm's account or their new friend the inevitable glasses that they themselves consume. In sum, the wine merchant may be consider the veritable fathers of their companionship (. . .) Due to a temperament that is very much shared by all Parisian proletarians, the conspirator doesn't delay becoming an accomplished "carouser" in this incessant tavern ambiance. The shady conspirator, who observes a rigid Spartan virtue in the secret sessions, suddenly loosens up and becomes someone who -- in the eyes of all the scholarly barflies -- knows how to appreciate wine and women. This tavern joviality is even more heightened by the constant dangers to which the conspirators are exposed: at any minute, he could be called to the barricades and perish there; at each step, the police lay traps for him that could lead to prison or even a galley ship. Such dangers precisely constitute the attraction of the trade: the greater the insecurity, the more the conspirator hastens to enjoy the pleasures of the moment. At the same time, the habituation to danger renders him completely indifferent to both life and liberty. He is as at home in prison as at a cabaret. Every day he expects to receive the order to go into action. The desperate rashness that manifests itself in every Parisian insurrection is precisely the contribution of these old professional conspirators, the henchmen. They are the ones who erect and command the first barricades, who organize resistance, lead the pillaging of armories, seize weapons and munitions, and carry out in full upheaval those audacious blows that so often throw the party in power into confusion."
Here one has a faithful description of the type of man that Bakunin was at the continental level. Bakunin, who could not in the course of his incessant transcontinental peripatetics encounter a being whom he liked without unloading upon him the statutes of his most recently formed secret society, hoping that he would adhere to what the Program and Object of the Secret Revolutionary Organization of the International Brothers calls a "kind of revolutionary [general] staff composed of individuals who are devoted, intelligent and sincere friends, especially; neither ambitious nor vain; of the people; capable of serving as the intermediary between the revolutionary idea[l] and working-class instincts. The number of these individuals thus most not be large. For the international organization in all of Europe, one hundred strongly and seriously allied revolutionaries would suffice." In truth, conspiratorial politics hasn't ceased to double all the organizational realities. In Spain, the FAI doubled the CNT, while its military office paid no attention to the Social-Democrat Workers Party in Russia. [in Russia,] Lenin was the only one up on the latest expropriation of Kamo, in 1912, [which worked] to the advantage of the Organization. [In Italy,] the "illegal work" commission of Potere Operaio tasked itself with auto-financing, and [in France, it] was evoked by the constitution of the "invisible party." The party -- this is often forgotten -- has never ceased to be legal and illegal, visible and invisible, public and conspiratorial. It is one of the traits of the present that, at the moment we need all the resources of conspiratorial politics, we no longer understand anything about it. It is necessary, at any cost, to maintain the following epistemological principle: the history of he revolutionary movement is, first of all, the history of the links that make up its reality [qui font sa consistance].
Resentment's rationalizations have the art of inverting logical relations. For more than a century, and notably since The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, every event finds its explication among the slaves in a conspiracy by the powerful. The global petite bourgeoisie dote upon this literature, because it comforts its ignorance and powerlessness. The progression of conspiracism [complotisme] has everywhere followed the progression of this "class." In fact, the revelation that the powerful conspire against us only serves to mask evidence of the contrary: the power that is found in friendship and through conspiracy. In his preface to Histoire des Treize, Balzac expresses as no one else the ambivalence of this power, which can return as aristocratic secession just as it can give birth to a revolutionary force.
"It happened that, under the Empire and in Paris, thirteen men equally struck by the same feeling, all endowed with a very great energy for being loyal to the same thought; quite honest amongst themselves due to never betraying each other; quite profoundly political so as to dissimulate the sacred links that unite them; strong enough to be above the law; bold enough to undertake anything; very happy for having almost always succeeded in their designs; having run the greatest dangers, but keeping quiet about their defeats; insusceptible to fear, and having never trembled before the prince, the executioner or innocence; having accepted each other, such as each was, without minding social prejudices (. . .) This world apart from the world, hostile to the world, accepted none of the ideas of the world, and recognized no law in it (. . .) This intimate union of superior people, cold and teasing, smiling and cursing in the midst of a false and petty society (. . .) Thus there were in Paris thirteen brothers who were their own masters and yet under-estimated in the world (. . .) There were no leaders nor followers; no one could arrogate power to himself; only the most vivid passion, only the most demanding circumstance, was the best. There were thirteen unknown kings, but real kings, and, more than kings, they were judges and executioners who -- organized into flanks that could traverse the entire country -- deigned to be something else, because they could be everything."
All of Blanqui's texts are circumstantial texts. They are driven by the conditions in which and against which they were written. It isn't until l'Eternite par les astres  that the Fort du Taureau is mentioned. From whence comes the nonexistence of Blanqui's oeuvre, in the sense of something that includes an entire treasure. From whence also comes the absence of a Blanquist doctrine as there exists a Marxist metaphysics. "A little passion; doctrines later!" There is, nevertheless, a Blanquist style.
"Revolutions desire men who have faith in them. To doubt their triumphs is to already betray them. It is through logic and audacity that one launches them and saves them. If you lack these qualities, your enemies will have it over you; they will only see one thing in your weaknesses -- the measure of their own forces. And their courage will grow in direct proportion with your timidity."
Everything's there. Blanqui is the author of the phrase "Neither God, nor master," the man who wrote "Honest [reguliere] anarchy is the future of humanity," and the author of an appeal against mutualism and in favor of integral association entitled "Communism is the future of society." Go find an orthodoxy there. Of course, constructing a revolutionary force when overthrowing an administrative monarchy, when there is only an elite to put down, this can be the work of an elite. When Bismarck's armies marched on Paris, acting in a revolutionary way was "making barricades and digging trenches; assigning churches to national usages; arming the priests and, consequently, suppressing all cults; mandating enlistment; placing food in common and rationing it; dismissing and dispersing the former police forces; and denouncing suspects and Bonapartists" (Dommanget, Blanqui ). in current society, in which power circulates within the flows of nourishment, information and medicines; in which citizens take advantage of their rights to call the cops; it goes without saying that a revolutionary force must embrace all aspects of existence; it must be constructed as a force of supply-provisioning and as an armed force, as a power that is both poetic and medical; and it must seize territories. It must collect all useful intelligence about the adversary's organization and provoke desertions in all ranks of society. It must socialize itself to the same extent that the social becomes military. But no more than yesterday: things can't wait. Such a force is in the process of being constituted. If this force closely studies Blanqui, it is only to better understand the war in progress.
Time passes. That is its nature. As long as there is time, there will be boredom, and time passes. The past does not pass. All that has really passed carries in itself a spark of eternity; it is inscribed in some nook of communal experience. One can efface the traces, but not the event. One can indeed pulverize the memory, [but] each piece of debris contains the total monad of what one believed to have been destroyed and will engender it anew, when the opportunity arises. We repeat: historicism is a brothel in which one takes care that the clients never believe [the illusion]. The past is not a succession of dates, deeds or modes of living; it is not a closet full of costumes; it is a reservoir of forces and gestures, a proliferation of existential possibilities. Knowledge of it is not necessary; it is simply vital. Vital for the present. It is from the present that one comprehends the past, not the reverse. Each era dreams its predecessors. The loss of all historical meaning -- like the loss of all meaning in general -- in our era is the logical corollary of the loss of all experience. The systematic organization of forgetting doesn't at all distinguish itself from the systematic loss of experience. The most demented form of historical revisionism, which now manages to apply itself even to contemporary events, finds it compost in the suspended life of the metropolises, where one never experiences anything, except for [all] the signs, signals and codes, and their padded conflicts. Where one has experiences, private/tame experiences that float, mute, unwrittable and empty; implosive intensities that cannot be communicated beyond the walls of an apartment and that any narrative would empty out more than it shares. It is under the form of its privatization that the deprivation of experience expresses itself the most communally.
December 2006. The ship of state is taking on water everywhere. Soon it will only be a look-out post. France burns and shipwrecks. This is good. It revives memories. The schools on fire burn in memory of the generations of proletarians who therein experienced the bitter taste of timetables, work and obedience, and incorporated the feeling of complete inferiority. Those who no longer vote honor the insurgents of June 1848 -- that "revolt by rebellious angels who have not arisen since then" (Coeurderoy) -- whom one put to the bayonet in the name of universal suffrage. The leftist intellectuals [of today] wonder on the radio if the government has the courage to send the army into the banlieus, just as their ancestors [who in the early 1960s] applauded the generals who, upon returning from Algeria, massacred Parisian proletarians, though the generals had gotten into the habit of "civilizing" the indigenous people [of that country]. Today as yesterday, this species of skunk calls himself republican and speaks of "the rabble." The imprisoned members of Action Directe have long ago surpassed their mandatory-minimum sentences. Regis Schleicher soon will compete with Blanqui for length of incarceration. More than ever, the army trains for urban warfare. In France, the historical clock is stuck at May 1871. The question of communism is invisibly the only question that haunts all social relations, even porn. The universe fidgets in place. Last March 31st, a wild demonstration of 4,000 people lasts more than eight hours: from the intervention of the president of this senile Republic -- he came on TV to announce that the CPE would be maintained -- to four o'clock in the morning. The demonstration wants to go to the Eylsee, oblique to la Concorde sur l'Assemblee national, which it fails to approach [investir] due to lack of materials and weapons -- same thing for the Senate.
At the edges of the march, determination grows. A martial scansion is heard at the door: "Paris! Get up, wake up!" It is an order. On the Boulevard de Sebastopol, then at de Magenta, the windows of the banks and interim-job agencies begin to fall, one after the other, methodically. Prostitutes at Pigalle salute from a window. The crowd mounts le Sacre-Coeur to cries of "Vive la Commune!" The door to the crypt does not budge; what a shame, one could have burnt it down. Descending to a small street, a lady in a baby-doll outfit leans on her third-floor balcony and yells at the top of her voice, "The bad days will end." The permanently-open office of the vile Pierre Lellouche will soon be sacked. It is three o'clock in the morning. The past does not pass. The burning of Paris will be the worthy completion of Baron Haussmann's destruction.
(Signed "Some Agents of the Imaginary Party," this text was published as the preface to Dominiqu Le Nuz's collection of texts by Blanqui entitled Maintenant, il faut des arms, published by Editions La Fabrique in 2007. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! 26 May 2009.)
 Louis Auguste Blanqui (1805-1881) was a French insurrectionist.
 Unlike Zarathustra and Heliogabale, Gilles de Rais was a real person. But it is true that, for Georges Bataille, author of The Trial of Gilles de Rais, (original 1965, translated by Richard Robinson, 1991), de Rais was more (evil) than just a "mere" man.
 Gustave Lefrancais (1826-1901) was a French anarchist.
 Uncited quotations are phrases from Blanqui.
 Letter dated 6 June 1852.
 See Dionys Mascolo's preface to collection of Saint-Just's writings published by Gallimard in 1968.
 Surhomme in French and uber Mensch in German.
 To fasten, make firm, establish.
 Benjamin Flotte.
[10 Jules Valles, L'Insurge, published post-humously in 1886.
 Alfred de Musset, The Confession of a Child of the Century (1836).
 Released in 1979, this album is strongly influenced by the Situationist International.
 A "machine for living" (a house) designed by Le Corbusier in Poissy, France, between 1928 and 1931.
 The Instructions for an armed uprising was first published in 1866, while Eternity through the stars was published in 1872.
 A detournement of a famous phrase by Raoul Vaneigem: "People who talk about revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life, without understanding what is subversive about love and positive in the referral of constraint, have corpses in their mouths." A great deal could be said about this detournement: 1) it removes love from the subversive equation; 2) it re-territorializes a remark from Vaneigem, whom Guy Debord once criticized for his "Blanquism" (see letter to Mustapha Khayati dated 13 November 1965); and 3) it reminds us of Debord's complete absence from this text on Blanqui, in particular, the following highly relevant remarks from Debord's Comments on the Society of the Spectacle.
"The notion of acceptable political crime only became recognized in Europe once the bourgeoisie had successfully attacked previously established social structures. The nature of political crime could not be separated from the diverse intentions of social critique. This was true for Blanqui, Varlin, Durruti. Nowadays there is a pretense of wishing to preserve a purely political crime, like some inexpensive luxury, a crime which doubtless no one will ever have the occasion to commit, since no one is interested in the subject any more; except for the professional politicians themselves, whose crimes are rarely pursued, nor for that matter no longer called political. All crimes and offenses are effectively social. But of all social crimes, none must be seen as worse than the impertinent pretension to still want to change something in this society, which thinks that it has only been only too kind and patient, but which no longer wants to be blamed."
 The Encyclopedia of Nuisances was founded as a group and a journal in 1984 by Jaime Semprun, Christian Sebastiani and others, in response to the murder of Gerard Lebovici, the editor of Editions Champ Libre. It began a publishing house in 1993.
 The EdN published a translation of the Unabomber's allegedly anarchist manifesto, "Industrial Society and Its Future," in 1999.
 Eugene Francois Vidocq (1775-1857) was a French criminal who became a police spy.
 The French here is tu es engage sur ta tete (literally, "you are engaged on your head").
 This review by Marx is available on-line in an English translation. Ironically, this website -- "Marxist," though it is -- is the best on-line resource for Blanqui's writings in translation.
 Potere Operaio ("Workers Power") was an Italian group active between 1968 and 1973.
 Honore de Balzac, Histoire des Treize: Ferragus, chef des devorants, XIII, 13.
 In the midst of spirited protests against the rescinding of the CPE (Contrat Premiere Embauche).
 Regis Schleicher, a member of Action Directe, was sentenced to life in prison in 1986.
 "The Bad Days Will End" was the title of an essay published in April 1962 by the Situationist International, and also the title of a film made by Thomas Lacoste in 2008.
 A right-wing French politician, born in 1951 and, one way or another, in power since 1993.
Friday, July 18, 2014
All the graphics are from the site Visualizing Palestine, a site dedicated to creating informative and impactful graphics about the occupied region. Check out many more of these images on their site
1. The Forced Exile of The Palestinian People
full screen: http://visualizingpalestine.org/Disappearing-Palestine
2. Maintenance of the Occupation
full screen: http://visualizingpalestine.org/infographic/Palestinian-Israeli-Peace-Talks-Settlements-Oslo
3. Continued Displacement and Destruction
4. A Pattern of Violence and Aggression
full screen: http://visualizingpalestine.org/timeline-of-violence
5. Illegal Detention
full screen: http://visualizingpalestine.org/infographic/Admin-Detention
6, 7 & 8. Segregation of Resources
full screen: http://visualizingpalestine.org/infographic/gaza-water-confined
9 & 10. Segregation of Travel
11. The Wall
full screen: http://visualizingpalestine.org/infographic/ICJ-Separation-Wall-Legality
Monday, July 7, 2014
Of course, to begin with, everything needs to be broached with caution. We need to remember to make distinctions
in our thought. To speak with tact is not always the same as silence even if in some situations the only real choice is a tactful silence. Yet this is not the case in a general manner. Thus in speaking in a general way, we can avoid this first, no doubt common objection, of preferring silence to dialogue. Similarly, there will be the plea to avoid mixing in these affairs, because, as we ourselves have quite openly admitted, we are neither Greeks nor have we spent our whole lives in Greek Anarchy. If this is admitted, there is no real shame in that. On the contrary, our position as outsiders might be considered as a benefit, both in being more free from insular dynamics and also to aid us in having some space to view things. Besides, as we are outsiders, we have little to lose, and if we have a small influence, then here again this helps us, since we do not have the illusion that with one text we can resolve a practical issue. But to begin a practical process of change and advance, a small text from marginal figures might indeed be suited to its purpose.
To aid us along this path, we should inquire what kind of change or development could one desire from Greek anarchy, apart from a general desire for victory? Anarchy has to deal with its own attempt at victory, and most difficult of all, also to prepare for its gradual fading away. The first dilemma would be to show that the change one demands is not abstract but rather rooted in the real situation of the time. So first we must show the situation and later we can elaborate further concerning practical affairs. Thus there would not be random ideas, but rather an exigency of the situation itself. Changes are already underway and our point is merely to act as a midwife, to aid the process of birth. Then our role obviously reorients itself from proclaiming an abstract demand to actually pointing out what is underway, with references to the concrete situation.
To commence with a brief overview of the political situation: the Greek State was shaken by December 2008, and this began the general process of decomposition we see unfolding before us, which has both positive and negative aspects. The state, from its own incompetence, corruption, lack of control and so forth, is on the brink of becoming a failed state—this is a sober analysis one can read from various establishment sources, not an illusory radical optimism. In this climate Anarchy itself is changing from a movement of aspiration and hope to a movement of reality. This necessitates a change in forms and ideas of the antagonist movement that have been shaped over time. But again, this is not something made up or imposed onto reality. December, and later Syntagma, February 12, and other developments, have opened up entire new avenues and possibilities for action, most of which, it should be noted, are basically offensive, since the old terrain has shifted. The neighborhood assemblies, new parks and squats, occupations, motorcycle demos, and yes, armed struggle, are all polymorphous changes that no abstract analysis created but rather an integral part of the changing reality itself. This does not need so much philosophizing, but only a quick reflection: Anarchy by definition changes as it gets closer to its goal since it becomes less a small group of believers than a general situation. The only difficulty with accepting this, again, is with lack of distinctions in Thought: often we say one day or one discrete point in time, “the big day” (le grand soir) will change everything; instead of reflecting that change always takes place in time with its delays and irregular progressions, so that the change from normality to Anarchy is a process of quite some time and certainly is in no way inevitable. A real analysis would point out the potential available for anarchy and situations where the state has been shaken. But this is obvious to everyone in the crumbling away of beliefs and buildings, the police on every corner, the splitting of political parties, the polarization of society, continued resistance by anarchists, etc.
Everything is getting more anarchic, or potentially more so, in a country that just a short time ago was the middle class success story of Europe. And to deny this, on the basis that we are not yet at Anarchy, is denying the evident reality of the process for the sake of an end that becomes unrealisable and separated from the world. No: the butterfly is leaving its hard, defensive chrysalis; the drab colors and immobility are being changed for something radically new. Or, to recall the old example of Themistokles, the traditional Anarchist way of inhabiting Athens—the classical movement and so forth—is passing as the city falls to the universal despotism of our times. But there is the chance for an audacious victory in a new element, to strike out on the great and stormy sea of revolution.
Just as a thing changes in time and so always is and is not, or is always coming-to-be and passing-away, so too Greek Anarchy is changing, just as the larger society and the world are changing. Anarchy itself is getting more anarchic.
* * *
What can help to bring out the best in this change, and what can be discarded? This basically is one major trend in this issue. In a general way, what is important to promote in order to conserve collective strength in the coming times? For us, as we are trying to show with our example (and thus, our theory is trying to be immediately practical), there can certainly be more openness and discussion in a public form with all the proprieties that should be observed there. To clarify: what exists now is much discussion, but generally in an informal and personalized manner or in a deeply bureaucratic manner (the assembly, to which we will return later). Neither way is the best medium for discussions and they bleed into one another in a deeply tragic fashion. Greek Anarchy is half a dysfunctional and small social milieu, another half a radically utopian political movement, but these should try not to intermingle with one another. And one foresees that in the future, they will continue to diverge. The personal is not the political, as in the misguided 60’s slogan. For us today the slogan must speak to the failure and feebleness of the New Left itself since, of course, the personal makes up a part of the political, as self-evidently persons take part in politics, but this hasty thought has confused the issue. This is the same error as in saying that the marble is the statue, or the paint is the painting. The personal is certainly related and a part of the political, but on the other hand this is so basic a claim and yet so obviously not everything that is in politics (just as the paint does not fully describe the painting). The movement is built upon friends, but politics cannot work only in this fashion, as is obvious, since a general political situation is always larger than the amount of friends, even friendly acquaintances, that one could have. These forms should separate themselves into their proper spheres, as friends are certainly the material for the political, but not the political in and of itself.
Historically, this slogan only emerged from the extreme self-denial and negation of the individual undertaken by Stalinism, so the pendulum swung in the opposite direction. Perhaps we can endeavour to find a golden mean, which would both acknowledge the individual, and yet also encourage us to set aside personal differences, or more realistically, to strenuously work to manage them, when issues of over-arching importance come into play. If no existential respect is conceded to others, then not only are we deprived of a certain type of nourishment, but worse, then only force necessarily remains to demand a certain respect. This is in fact the very opposite of the correct relation of mutual respect, which should be in one sense unconditional in a small way, and in a large way, can only be freely granted. For more on this large theme, we have elaborated about negativity in this issue. But in brief what model or ideals can help us? Certainly, not the levelling down of critique, but rather a building up, the noble spirit of ἀγών, as Nietzsche saw, emulation and uplift. As Goethe said, “Divide and conquer, a good maxim. Unite and lead, a better one.”
As well, in terms of sustainability, the current model of activism or even the idea as such needs to be questioned. Most people do not have the requisite abnegation to reach the level of sacrifice demanded. And thus, predictably, this model has only worked in small groups for a small period of time, whence comes the famous burn-out or sell-out which inevitably seems to follow. Evidently the model demands too much, this being related to the vaguely Christian roots of the workers’ movement. Similarly we should re- think the idea of the common and reflect on how much is common already and on preserving that as an idea. For example, the welfare- state is doomed, but the idea that a community should care for its ailing, aged, unfortunate or infirm members is a most reasonable idea. But this can equally come about without the state and then it preserves its true character, which is spiritual. Furthermore, this thinking about the common would also apply to our effort since the activist method demands everything and leaves no space for varied
or partial commitment. But that is what most people can give. One resource we often do not think of because of an unfortunate tendency to materialism is motivation, which is perhaps the prime thing that keeps the movement going, even though (or seen more clearly, precisely because) it is spiritual. This collective motivation is often squandered in a thoughtless manner that makes things all the more difficult. Whereas if a small effort was made to conserve the collective motivation, one would not demand more or be satisfied with less but recognize varying levels of commitment without a hostile critique.
For a brief digression we should also inquire, what exactly is this Greek Anarchy that one speaks about? Not the varied experiences or the actual thing “in itself”, which no one trying to retain their sanity could attempt to define. We here are still persistently looking around Athens for ‘the anarchists’, and also for ‘Greece’, and ‘anarchy’, and as of yet have never really found them. Greece today is nothing more than an empty record of the ruined West, so we should just try for a brief genealogy. But it deserves noting for historical consciousness that this “Greek moment”, with its general strikes and riots and most especially its section of Greek Anarchy, is basically the last recognizable and influential remnant of the classical workers’ movement, which faded out in Western Europe and was discarded as unfashionable by French intellectuals a few decades ago. The only other exception (as we noted last issue) is in Spain, for reasons specific to its history. Greece, besides still having a residue of leftist revolutionism, is also an anarchic country. Anarchy can become a more real expression of something that has always existed in this Greece that could never unite its regions. Revolutions happen and change the lives of peoples, as they make an effort to cast off all their bonds, but on the basis of their prior life. France and Russia had both been the lands of reaction, aristocratic pomp, of authority- and yet that culture, too, was changed in revolution. So that 1789 was seen as the revenge of the Huguenots, the victory of the philosophes, as 1917 was that great revolt predicted by Bakunin, the millennial peasant rising in continuation with the legacy of the social-revolutionaries. But now we come to a new era of revolt: as Surrealism announced almost a century ago now, Marxism never developed the means to attack modernized parliamentary democracy. So it is in fact of the utmost import that Greece is probably the most middle- class country one could ever hope to find. Revolution here would signify leaving behind this middle-class world, the completed welfare-state, and going somewhere completely new, not simply universalizing the bourgeois revolution in peripheral countries as happened for example in Marxism.
At any rate, in critique it is very important to avoid the purely negative inf luence that would lead Greece into a similar sad state of apathy and vain intellectualizing that has made most of Europe such a frozen place. On the other hand it is important to note that Greece is, because of this, in a special way behind of Europe, in its form, and yet ahead in its content. This is also related to its backwards historical development, with fascism ending here the prior generation, which in Europe was the position of the New Left. Greece has not yet suffered the defeats other countries have suffered, and the form of its modernity is in this sense undeveloped. So the world has not yet really finished with the issues posed by the workers’ movement, because the real issue of the workers’ movement was always-already Anarchy (Marxism’s heaven is Anarchy so this theory too is oriented around an Anarchy it can never reach). In face of the global oligarchy (allied to Protestant nothingness) arrogantly imposing itself, the issues have clearly not gone away, yet only Anarchy retains some of the old force. But this is actually a hopeful situation since Europe is only more advanced into decadence than Greece. Anarchy is only a retrogression compared to the disillusion following Marxism in the sense of not having advanced so far into intellectual sophistries and poorly-founded hopes. And to close with a brief note, this workers’ movement both was dedicated to leaving behind Christianity yet also had some Christian or militant components.
In this vein, there exists both moralizing critique and a moralistic critique of morality in Anarchy, but elaborating a reasonable relation to ethics is surely on the agenda. Should we not rather leave others in the movement to be as mistaken or correct as they wish to be, since the true exists on its own, even in a world of falsity? Moreover, if we had more distinction in Thought we would find not absolute evil everywhere else except for the small circle of true believers (from whom we are always focused on excluding the impure). Rather people are not as supportive as we would have liked; or not at the level of their past behavior; or not at our own way of thinking, which is not the same as absolute evil. This idea or popular morality was itself suited to a time when a small movement confronted a gigantic world opposing it and so could pose an abstract negation to the world, since the relation really was such. Now that the chance to determinately negate a society actually poses itself (by which is meant destruction of the State without the reconstruction of a new State) we will find the need for much more distinction to bring about this goal successfully. To lump everyone together under one label is not fit for the moment, just as Anarchy as a movement already makes a tactical distinction between the Nazified police and Golden Dawn, on the one hand, and on the other hand, Syriza and many other groups. This is quite correct as these social forces are really quite different and the point is to see in what ways they are different and how the movement has to relate to this. Revolutions have always differentiated between officers and soldiers, volunteers and conscripts. Great tacticians have always known to give the enemy a “golden bridge”, as Kutuzov famously gave to Napoleon, as the Ancient Greeks gave to the Persians, to facilitate the disbandment. In a world where there are no more kings to kill, no real power but institutions and networks, it would certainly be a grave mistake not to allow things
to disintegrate as much as they will. To oppose to everyone the abstract levelling of death, which is itself already the principle of this dying world, would be a serious error. After all, the world of today is literally dying because it really is total deprivation and incapacity for any good—there is no good left in the official world and this is inherently related to its debility.
Similarly, Anarchy can make distinctions amongst itself without needing to impose a “one Anarchy” type of model. Or, put in another way, the “one Anarchy” would be all the different anarchies allowed and then something more, as the sum greater than its parts.
Anarchy would then realize it has a richness in itself that is basically a microcosm of the richness of the actual world outside of it in all its changing shapes and individuals. So that the society knows Anarchy
as the secret of its own dissolution, but Anarchy knows itself as
The old esoteric view of German Idealism, of developments in speculative Thought and events in the French Revolution corresponding (so Kant was simply the beginning in 1789, Fichte was its revolutionary phase, and Hegel the phase of victorious Bonapartism) also continued along in Lukács, where the development of the theory of revolution is linked to the reality of revolution itself. This is a quite enlightening way of viewing things and then we would see that the Thoughts in Anarchy express the world, not simply of phenomenal reality, but the world of Thought.
However this is correlated to the acts of Anarchy that also express the actual reality of the world today. This strange feeling anyone gets in a riot as the riot police are repelled by a deluge of Molotovs and this strange, curious, black feeling, the possession of a shocking new form of Liberty, as the riot police are forced to retreat, when the crowd still has possession of the street—all this can only happen because the spiritual state of the official world already is in a morbid sickness. Nothing can be destroyed that has much life in it; a healthy body recovers from a common cold. And the unconscious “anarchy” of white collar crime, intellectual confusion, the mass of suicides, imperialist wars, the surveillance state etc. is only expressing that the real truth of the moment is the conscious Anarchy for revolution. The real “truth” of the shopping glass window lies in its shattering or shuttering.
As Hegel tells us, History is the history of the advance of Liberty: to resurrect this idealist schema, we simply need add one more new form, that of penultimate liberty, of Anarchy.
Talking about the assemblies might be unwanted, but it should be stated. The assembly is most certainly a valuable tool for political organization. No one has ever denied that. However, the real question is: can a political movement always relate amongst itself in a directly democratic manner, and is this always profitable? Let us take the Villa Amalias eviction as an example, since this was when The Barbarian was founded and was quite a big event. To set the scene, afterwards everyone went for a cacophonous assembly at the polytechnic, with shouting and gesticulation for hours until finally people trickled off. The end result was much the same as what everyone was thinking at the beginning: there was the decision for a big collective march. Finally the firebombings that also took place afterwards, which most people probably supported or tolerated, could not have been collectively discussed in that manner. Thus the assembly does not solve everything, nor can everything be put to an assembly. Moreover did the assembly introduce anything new or rather was there already a basically collective sentiment in favor of a march? This is simply to reduce the assembly to its important but by no means all-embracing role, as the democratic assembly is not a panacea but a means of managing political differences. This would also be related to the classical observation that no political form is perfect and the most ideal form of politics is a mixture of the elements. More than anything the aim is a feeling of unity in a community. However, a political movement within itself has little political differences, almost self-evidently. It already has that unity. Thus the debate that takes place is either a caricature of a real debate that would take place in an open forum in any random neighborhood assembly, or a tactical debate that in many cases cannot be conducted openly, for clear reasons.
This curious or redundant character of some assemblies stems from the basic fact that the political unity is already there. Thus the question is immediately not “what to do” but “how to do it”, whereas real political debate demands a question of “what”, and then of “how”. Assemblies should most certainly be exported outside of specifically anarchist spaces (the polytechnic) to take part in a real collective life—and this is already happening. On the other hand though, this means the assembly is revealing its true function as a mass participative form of political education, not as something suitable for every occasion for a minority of militants. Just because armed struggle and other actions cannot be conducted or proposed in an assembly do not render them bad, simply it connects the moment of war with a monarchical or aristocratic type of decision, with which historically it was always associated, even in democracies.
Finally, what exists in the assemblies is in no way a pure direct democracy but because of the small and self-referential nature of the Anarchist community, it is always-already touched by the social scene and with other political forms like aristocracy. But this in no way is to say a thing is bad (unless we have the one-sided equation that only democracy = good), however it is to say honestly what a thing is.
* * *
Something to note, since it is unavoidable: Nihilist currents of anarchy are not the orphans abandoned on the doorstep of an unsuspecting Greek Anarchy, as was noted quite some time ago (by London Occupied in their work Revolt and Crisis in Greece). On the positive side, we again have to agree with Hegel that a split often confirms the vitality of a principle itself: since both sides find that what they thought was the outside world was in fact inside their movement, forcing them to realize that they never really left the outside world. And that this outside world, while touching the anarchist space, also is becoming touched by it in quite real ways. Then perhaps some potential would exist as the self-clarification is forced upon the two sides. This could become not the mirrored replication of a negative definition but the stimulus for elaboration of positive projects. As always, every difficult situation presents us with the truth of the great proverb that crisis is both a danger and an opportunity.
But assuredly more fruitful than discussing the well- worn polemic of non-social and social anarchy would no doubt be armed struggle and who does and does not support the tactic. Immediately we would find the need to make more gradations in Thought, between those who support unconditionally, some support more cautiously, some do not think it is the right time, a few are unconditionally against, etc.&c. This would help clarify things more and would show where Anarchy has a chance to go as the crisis situation deepens and where chances for some practical unity, even from different angles, might lie. From our own Northern history, the Calvinists and Lutherans of different countries all did work together to protect themselves against Catholic reaction in the 30 Years’ War. There were problems, but this did take place. From our anarchist history, Spain had many different stripes of Anarchists, and yes, even left Marxists working together in a fashion. The point is not to have perfect examples since everyone can point out the problems in these situations, but to establish the idea that in the heat of struggle, groups of different goals and forms can work together for tactical objectives, especially if they are committed to everyone making a tiny sacrifice on their own to achieve a collective objective.
As an aside, there was a positive debate in the anarchist space concerning anonymity and identity, to which we point our readers and which is available at Contrainfo in English (A Debate on Anonymity). The issue concerned being anonymous or proclaiming a group name for radical actions undertaken. At any rate, philosophy always is concerned with finding unity in division. Here, we can find that both sides are anarchists, they agree on violent tactics (itself already an advance over typical Protestant debates) and where they disagree are on particular tactical matters concerning the presentation of acts of sabotage. But for us, the particular and contingent character of various acts already implies an impossibility of assigning any position normatively, since the real question at hand is the singular
meaning of each action and the liberty of the actors to decide the question: would a formal organization, or an anonymous, or a pseudonymous, or no claim of responsibility at all, give more meaning to the acts performed? And also what are the actors themselves trying to communicate and how does this function?
So perhaps in this way, at a philosophical level we may say that we have found ourselves again at Hegel’s dictum of the “identity of identity and non-identity”. What should be underlined is the positive fact that the debate was conducted in texts at a reasonably high level (varying interpretations of Homer, something always to be commended) and clearly laid out the contending positions in basically de-personalized texts. Thus the final result of the debate was not winning for either side, as it so rarely is, but a positive gain for Anarchy as a whole, and offers a model of how to raise and manage differences in a type of theoretical forum.
* * *
If Anarchy is not able to resolve these problems, then it is clear one runs the danger of the unhappy prior experiences of either the French, Russian or Spanish variety of revolution. It might degenerate into factional violence and from there degrade into the unrewarding victories of betrayed revolution in France or Russia. Or on the other hand, it may be too spiritually weak and not have enough faith in itself to push its goals to completion as in Spain. Without a way for managing differences and resolving conflicts in a fashion other than that of the Greek village— constant informal discussions and explosions of emotion, threats of physical violence and appeals to the elders to act as arbitrators—Anarchy does run serious dangers as its importance becomes ever more serious. Especially if we have taken Anarchy to mean not a revolutionary self-discipline but no discipline at all, which anyone could imagine might develop poorly in stateless scenarios. But to point out a danger, in no way implies it is certain to happen. To take a part, however small, in a constructive process is the best way of ensuring that an unhappy outcome will not take place. Happily, the problems are small right now. Yet that is not a reason to ignore them or brush them under the rug, just to avoid a momentary discomfort. If these little issues are ignored, like a small wound or a minor illness, they can fester and get much more serious. While if they are treated with the healthful tonic of frank but respectful proliferation of discussion and resolve at an individual level to carry out the ideas, then they will no doubt help the organism grow stronger—even if this in itself is not the ultimate solution to every problem. Finally, this will also help the lands with less developed movements to expand and grow. So the issues are, as the Greek developments themselves, both specific and universal, just as we are dealing here not with any one incident but general trends.
Thus, that is the reason for this intervention and for most of the articles in this issue. Basically these are ideas that are fairly common and have come up repeatedly in our discussions with others. So there is not anything new being presented nor is there the tacit assumption of a lack of thought in Greek Anarchy; rather, what is at stake here is a bringing-out into the best form and a reasonable manner of presentation, attempted in a respectful way. These last are also not new to Greek Anarchy, but in our view these are some things that could most certainly and profitably be multiplied in the movement.
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Monday, June 30, 2014
"You can use the 600 Euros that you will find on me to pay our health insurance. I paid the rent yesterday. I am sorry, my daughter, I could not take more suffering just to put a warm plate on the table - a bloody plate. Make sure that our daughter goes to college and never
leave her alone. She should get the house that we have in the village."
This is the suicide note of a 50-year-old woman to her husband. She jumped off a high wall in Crete, Greece, last week and is hospitalized in critical condition. She is one more victim of the deepening
financial crisis that is trying the limits of Greek people since 2008. According to the Greek Census Bureau, there has been a 43 percent increase in suicides in austerity-chained Greece since the beginning of the crisis. Unofficial accounts bring the number to 4,000 deaths so far.
Greece is the most recent and historically
I glance through snapshots in the news: grim faces, desperate eyes, angry gazes, frustration, and, most of all, fear. The city of Athens is slowly turning into a cemetery for the living. The transformation of the city, both as a physical and as a symbolic space, is shocking to the eye; as a public space and a habitat for its people, it now gets fragmented into deserted stores "for rent," broken façades and abandonment apartment windows and balcony doors tightly locked behind iron bars for "extra safety," carton beds and, along them, homeless people's possessions: an old dirty blanket, oversized worn out sneakers, plastic flowers, empty water bottles, stale bread. Different parts of the city palpably illustrate a degenerating social fabric, as more Greeks are now joining the ranks of what Zygmunt Bauman has called "human waste"(4): unemployed, working poor, immigrants, all the outcasts, victims of "economic progress," preys of rampant neoliberal policies, "casualties," real victims to what the Greek prime minister has recently called a "success story" on the road to privatization and the wholesale of Greece's national assets and sovereignty.
Greece is radically and violently transformed into the land field of "wasted lives" in the giant trashcan of global capitalism. Witnessing as I do this novel form of social necrophilia that eats alive every inch of human life, workspace and public space, I cringe at the sound of the words "sacrifice," "rescue" and making Greece, according to the claims of Greek PM Antonis Samaras, a "success story." Whose sacrifice and whose rescue? Who succeeds and who loses? Numbers are telling.
Unemployment rates are currently climbing to 30 percent, the same percentage Greece had in 1961. As a point of comparison, unemployment in the United States in 1929 was 25 percent, and in Argentina in 2001, it was 30 percent. More than 70 percent of the unemployed have been out of work for more than a year, leaving most to rely on charity after losing monthly benefit payments and health insurance. This percentage does not include young people seeking a job for the first time, employees without insurance and part-timers. Unemployment is up 41 percent from 2011, and for those 15-24, it has reached 51.1 percent, doubling in only three years (5) and setting a negative record for a Eurozone country.(6)
The IMF/European Central Bank recipe is generating wealth in the global financial casino, while 31 percent of Greeks live at risk of poverty, according to Eurostat (2012). These statistics put Greece in seventh place in poverty percentages among the 27 EU countries. More specifically, in Greece: 28.7 percent of children up to 17 years old; 27.7 percent of the population between ages 27-64; and 26.7 percent of Greeks older than 65 live in the poverty threshold.
By social necrophilia, I mean . . . economic policies and austerity measures that result in the physical, material, social and financial destruction of human beings . . .
In March 2013, the government announced additional pension cuts of up to 20 percent. According to the Labor Institute of the National Confederation of Greek Workers (2012), new measures dictated by the Troika (the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund) will lead to at least a 35 percent deterioration of salaried employees' and pensioners' lives. As an example, since the beginning of 2011, 113,268 people have disconnected their telephone landlines to decrease expenses. With a 19 percent increase in the cost of electricity, 350,000 people now live without electricity in Athens. Additional taxes on property have ravaged the middle class that is now "paying rent" in their own houses through new taxes and fines imposed. Quality of life is radically deteriorating for Greek people.
This neoliberal experiment, as currently implemented in Greece, breeds destructiveness and death and resonates with forms of "social necrophilia." By social necrophilia, I mean the blunt organized effort on the part of the domestic political system and foreign neoliberal centers to implement economic policies and austerity measures that result in the physical, material, social and financial destruction of human beings: policies that promote death, whether physical or symbolic. The goal of the ongoing capitalist offensive in the form of a neoliberal doctrine is to destroy symbolically and physically the most vulnerable strata of the population, to put the entire society in a moribund state to impose the most unprecedented austerity measures that generate profit for the most privileged classes internationally.
Erich Fromm, Frankfurt School philosopher, social psychologist and psychoanalyst, provides both a metaphor from the realm of psychiatry, as well as the tools to make the case for a reified market society that is being forced to start loving death: its own. In his seminal work on the Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (1973), Fromm defines necrophilia as "the passionate attraction to all that is dead, decayed, putrid, sickly; it is the passion to transform that which is alive into something unalive; to destroy for the sake of destruction; the exclusive interest in all that is purely mechanical. It is the passion to tear apart living structures."(8)
In the case of the Greek neoliberal experiment, however, beyond destroying for the sake of destruction, there are real economic interests at stake. There are bets and speculations in casino capitalism, and the game is on in Greece for banks and other large financial organizations. Social necrophilia here can be understood as the state of decay, the material and social degeneration of society, and the destruction of social fabric, where illness and death loom for the poor as a result of an economy dying through specific political choices while profit goes to big banks and multinational corporations. Love of death or the politics of social necrophilia can be illustrated in Greece in a) the rise of fascism and b) the shocking increase in illness, suicide, addiction and spread of infectious diseases since the beginning of the crisis.
In the Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (9) Fromm makes the case that necrophilia is a product of fascist thought, as he discusses the example of Spanish Falangists who used to shout, "long live death." Fascism finds expression both in government discourses and policies as well as in the rise of neo-Nazi Party Golden Dawn. Love of death is currently manifested in Greece in that rise of Golden Dawn.
In a necrophilous state of affairs, the system in charge operates with the conviction that the only way to solve a problem or a conflict is by force and violence, both symbolic and material, usually failing to see other options.
Beyond the constant constitutional violations, the disappearing public space is a central feature of Greek proto-fascism. The landscape taking shape since 2009 is not too far from the kind of totalitarianism Hannah Arendt wrote about: a "totalitarian government does not just curtail liberties or abolish essential freedoms; . . . It destroys the one essential prerequisite of all freedom, which is simply the capacity of motion which cannot exist without space."(11)
Motion is not only inhibited and/or prohibited, as for example, in the case of prohibiting demonstrations in the center of Athens when Troika officials visit, a practice reminiscent of the curfews during the German occupation of the '40s. Furthermore, what motion there is, is watched, with heightened surveillance and cameras installed throughout Athens. In a necrophilous state of affairs, the system in charge operates with the conviction that the only way to solve a problem or a conflict is by force and violence, both symbolic and material, usually failing to see other options. This also explains the increased exponential violence employed by the state the last five years as manifested in shutting down protests, criminalizing dissent and activism and torturing arrested protesters as well as pre-emptive arrests in every mobilization.
Alongside symbolic violence manifested in economic, political and discursive form, there is an intensified move toward militarization and authoritarianism. To this end, and while massive layoffs are taking place in the public sector, the Greek state spends more money on hiring and training law enforcement officers. More interestingly, there are close ties between the police and the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, whose members are nostalgic of Hitler and the 1967 Colonels' Junta. Golden Dawn - now pronounced a criminal organization - is involved in running "paramilitary operations that systematically attacked migrants, leftists and gay people."(12) Eighteen of its MPs are already incarcerated, and a number of its members have been involved in violent attacks, gun possession and even murder as in the fatal brutal beating of Pakistani immigrant Shehzad Luqman and the cold-blooded murder of Pavlos Fyssas, a young leftist anti-fascist activist and rapper.
The "public" is being abolished in favor of the private, through a process of devaluation, vilification and degradation. A case in point is the ongoing demonization of public functionaries, public school teachers and university professors, and doctors working in the public system of health as lazy, incompetent, in need of constant evaluation and with the Damocles sword of investigation should they dare to disagree. Everything "public" is left to decay, by cutting off funding, staff and support and creating a fertile space for corruption and violent competition.
Malaria, a disease officially eliminated 40 years ago, also made a comeback in 2012.
The Decaying Body
"It's simple. You get hungry, you get dizzy and you sleep it off," said the mother of an 11-year old boy who has been suffering hunger pains at school.(13)
Necrophilia is further manifested in physical terms in the ways the human body is degenerating, ravaged by illness, malnutrition, drug abuse, HIV and suicide. People looking for food in the trash. There are homeless people in every corner; mini slum communities all over downtown Athens. Walking south, toward the center, thousands of people wait in line to be served food by soup kitchens that provide over 30,000 free meals a day. Plenty of people queue up for possibly the only meal of their day. Welcome to the "human waste" line.
The Greek governments that assumed the role of the executioners of IMF/EU directives since the beginning of the crisis in 2008 have demonstrated a particularly necrophilous character, and they have done so unapologetically. Αn increasing number of children have been passing out in schools because of malnutrition; there are embarrassing shortages in public hospitals, where patients often have to buy their own gauze and medication from an outside pharmacy while admitted. People without health insurance with severe illnesses do not have access to treatment. Malaria, a disease officially eliminated 40 years ago, also made a comeback in 2012, with cases being noted in eastern Attica and the Peloponnese.
There are increasing numbers of suicides (close to a 43 percent hike) that rank Greece number one worldwide in suicides the past five years. There are alarming new cases of depression and mental illnesses. A recent study conducted by the University of Ioannina found that one in five people facing financial problems presents psychopathological symptoms. There is also a 200 percent increase in HIV cases.(14) At the same time, significant funding is cut from psychiatric hospitals, public drug rehabilitation centers and other social and welfare provisions while the system tries to "abort" vulnerable social groups such as HIV-positive women, drug users and people with mental illness.
With the 40 percent surcharge the government has slapped on heating oil, thousands of households have remained cold during the winter while people are returning to wood stoves, the out-of-control use of which has generated poisonous toxic smog over the city of Athens. Bodily decay goes hand in hand with environmental destruction: Greek soil is ravaged as mineral resources are overexploited in the name of profit. Large forest areas, such as the Skouries forest in Halkidiki, are turning into vast mining sites, where private companies exploit the natural wealth of the country, while poisoning the soil, the air and the water.
The more human qualities are attributed to the markets, the more real people are robbed of their own human substance.
Shock helps the system implement antisocial and harmful policies that citizens would normally object to. Being in a state of shock as a country, says Klein, means losing your narrative, being unable to understand where you are in space and time. The state of shock is easy to exploit because people become vulnerable and confused. They are robbed of their vital tools for understanding themselves and their position in the sociopolitical context. People become unalive things and the market becomes alive. While people are slowly losing their humanity, with the government abandoning its social and welfare functions, "markets" become the new referent people should care and worry about, as if they were something alive.
Although lifeless things, markets acquire a soul and a character in the neoliberal discourse. One can observe an interesting phenomenon in the official government discourse, loyally reproduced by mainstream media: a continuous attempt to ascribe human properties to markets. The "market" as a noun, subject or object, is projected as the overarching authority, above and beyond everybody, the entity that should be kept happy and satisfied - another manifestation of necrophilia as people have to die to keep the market alive. The anthropomorphism of the market is illustrated when "markets" are used in the mainstream media in sentences such as "the markets showed satisfaction today" or "the market is struggling," and "we need to convince the markets," "we should appease the markets," or "let's wait and see how the markets respond." The invisible market's "reactions" give legitimacy to the "human sacrifices," as all "market feelings" depend on increasing antisocial austerity measures that relegate a large part of Greek productive population to the unemployment trashcan. The more human qualities are attributed to the markets, the more real people are robbed of their own human substance. It seems as if the system needs to dehumanize people to "humanize" the market and then, possibly re-humanize them in the new market society, as a new kind of people robbed of any sense of agency.
In the Greek people's quest to find their lost narrative, to "renarrativise" themselves in a collective way (16), the ability to consciously disobey and to fill the concept of hope with a real, feasible political project are two very important imperatives. To paraphrase Fromm, at this point in Greek history "the capacity to doubt, to criticize and to disobey"(17) may be all that stands between the future for this country and its end. In articulating a political project and a narrative against capitalist necrophilia, there is a need to put at the core critical and radical thought that, when blended with the love of life, may take the struggle to the next level. Instead of getting confined to reforming or amending the current situation, people need to strive to imagine that which is not, desire it and work hard to make it happen.
* This article draws on my forthcoming book chapter "Neoliberalism as Social Necrophilia: Erich Fromm and The Politics of Hopelessness in Greece" to appear in Miri, S., Lake, R. & Kress, T. Reclaiming the Sane Society: Essays on Erich Fromm's Thought. Boston: Sense Publishers.
1. Hall, S., Massey, D. & Rustin, M. (2013). After Neoliberalism: Analyzing the Present. In Hall, S., Massey, D. & Rustin, M. (Eds.) After Neoliberalism? The Kilburn Manifesto; London, UK: Soundings, p. 12.
2. Sotiris, P. (2012). The Downsizing of a Country.
4. Bauman Z. (2004). Wasted Lives: Modernity and its Outcasts. Cambridge, UK: Polity, p. 4.
5.INE GSEE/ADEDY. (2012). Greek economy and employment: Yearly Report 2012. Athens, Greece.
6. Eurozone Unemployment Reaches New High (2013, January 8). BBC
7. Greek National Committee of UNICEF. (2003). State of Children in Greece 2013. Athens: Greece.
8. Fromm, E. (1973). The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness. New York: Henry Holt, p. 369.
10. Giroux, 2008, p. 21-22). Giroux, H. (2008). Against the Terror of Neoliberalism Politics Beyond the Age of Greed. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.
11. Hannah Arendt The Origins of Totalitarianism (1973, p. 466)
12. The Guardian
13. Alderman, L. (2013, April 17). More Children in Greece are going Hungry. The New York Times.
14. Henley, J. (2013, May 15). Recessions can hurt but Austerity kills.
15. Klein: Klein, N. (2008). The Shock Doctrine. New York: Henry Holt.
16. Edmonds, L. (2013, April 26) "Is Greece in Shock?" Naomi Klein tells Enet how her bestseller The Shock Doctrine relates to Greece. Eleytherotypia Online.
17. Fromm, 1981
Panayota Gounari is Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Her research focuses on the politics of language in the construction of neoliberal discourses in education and society, as well as on reinventing a theory for critical pedagogy. She is a co-editor of Critical Pedagogy: A Reader (Gutenberg 2010, with George Grollios) and and a co-author of the Hegemony of English (Paradigm 2003). She has authored numerous articles and book chapters that have been translated in many languages.