Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fight Against G-20 in Pittsburgh...What Happened There?

photos originaly from Reuters and Associated Press

Void Network and Void Mirror international blog offers here analysis and review from Crimethic Ex Workers Collective about the riots took place in Pittsburgh-U.S.A. during the conference of G-20 there... As long as the "world leaders" and the financial elite will gather to organize the exploitation of human beings and the destruction of Earth, they will be allways sensitive and consciouss human beings to confront their power...

Disclaimer: This was written the night of September 24, immediately following the events described, without time to verify all the reports summarized or assemble additional information. There may be errors; if so, we will correct them shortly.
This is on-the-spot reporting just in from the first day of the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, which has seen a great deal of spirited resistance and confrontation—perhaps as much as has occurred at any anarchist mobilization in North America in half a decade. This gushy, hastily composed account presents the context, attempts to convey the spirit of the day, and raises a few preliminary questions.
The basic narrative of the day runs thus: The protesters attempt to reach the summit site, but are brutally forced back by police. They eventually turn around and march through Pittsburgh neighborhoods and shopping districts, where the police pursue and attack them. Property destruction intensifies in response to these attacks, and the conflict culminates in a standoff between police and students during which a black bloc destroys a business district.
One might interpret all this as legitimate acts of revenge for the police murder in London at last spring’s G20 summit; but it also signifies the survival of militant street resistance in the Obama era.

Never Felt More Alive

In the monotony of capitalist daily life, it’s easy to forget that we have a negotiable relationship to reality. Streets are for faceless traffic; crowds are impersonal assemblies of strangers studiously ignoring each other; windows are for displaying merchandise, or staring out of as we wait for shifts or classes to conclude; decorative stones outside banks or fast food franchises are inert objects devoid of interest or possibility.
When all this is interrupted and the unknown opens before us in every instant, the world becomes a magical place. In these moments, we discover new organs within ourselves—or if not new, then atrophied or atavistic—adapted for an entirely different way of life than we are used to. It turns out we are creatures made for another world—and made well for it!—who are barely getting by in this one. Changing worlds, we shift from malaise and misery to incredible joy and pleasure: finally, we are at home in our own skin, in our own environment. Charging down the street together rather than driving down it separately, fighting or outrunning police rather than submissively accepting their authority, we come to life.
No words can do justice to this experience, but it is real—one day of it is realer than a decade of rental contracts, traffic tickets, service work, and nights at the bar.
continue reading the analysis and detailed review of the fights against G-20 in Pittsburgh here:

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Federation Of Egalitarian Communities! Another World Just happening!

The Federation of Egalitarian Communities is a network of communal
groups spread across North America. They range in size and emphasis from
small agricultural homesteads to village-like communities to urban
group houses.

Principles of the FEC

Each of the FEC communities:

  1. Holds its land, labor, income
    and other resources in common.
  2. Assumes responsibility for the needs of its members, receiving
    the products of their labor and distributing these and all other
    goods equally, or according to need.
  3. Practices non-violence.
  4. Uses a form of decision making in which members have an equal
    opportunity to participate, either through consensus, direct vote,
    or right of appeal or overrule.
  5. Actively works to establish the equality of all people and
    does not permit discrimination on the basis of race, class, creed,
    ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
  6. Acts to conserve natural resources for present and future
    generations while striving to continually improve ecological
    awareness and practice.
  7. Creates processes for group communication and participation
    and provides an environment which supports people's development.

Why FEC Exist

Because we share so much, and because we are committed to a vision of community which transcends our individual groups, we have joined together to cooperate on publications, conferences, recruitment efforts, community support systems including health care, and a variety of other mutually supportive activities. Our aim is not only to help each other; we want to help more people discover the advantages of a communal alternative, and to promote the evolution of a more egalitarian world.

Connect With FEC

We cannot promise utopia, but if you are seriously interested in
our joyous struggle, we invite you to come and see for yourself. To
arrange a visit,
read here and then contact the individual community
you want to go to. Other opportunities to connect with us include
internships and conferences on community living.

If you are part of an existing community that is interested in potentially joining the FEC, see info on becoming an FEC community.

For other queries, please Email

History of FEC

The Federation of Egalitarian Communities (FEC) was founded in December 1976
when the first assembly was held at East Wind Community in Missouri. The
organization was originally inspired by the networks of mutual support observed
among Israeli kibbutzim by Kat Kinkade. Early ideas for cooperation ranged from
loans and labor exchange to sharing community-building skills with low-income
people, and eventually settled upon outreach as the core activity.

The FEC is presently comprised of 6 full member groups and a number of Allied Communities and Communities in Dialogue.

Find all info about Federation of Egalitarian Communities in:

Friday, September 18, 2009

6 Serb comrades from Anarchosyndicalist Initiative arrested by the Serbian state for an attack that they have completely no relation!

Void Mirror international blog and Void Network participates in the International Solidarity Movement for the 6 members of Serbian Anarchosyndicalist Initiative that have been arrested by the Serbian State accused for an attack to the Greek embassy. The comrades they are completely non relevant with this attack but even though, the European State see in their faces an inner enemy for the European capitalistic Totalitarianism. In their faces we see the international struggle for Freedom, Equality and end of Exploitation.


On 25th of August a group of 5 persons attacked with molotov cocktails against the Greek embassy in Belgrade, without causing significant damage. The responsibility was claimed by an organization with the name Black Sun, which, according to its statement, made this attack in solidarity with the hunger striker Th. Iliopoulos.

For this reason, the government of Serbia detained 5 anarchists and persecutes another one, accusing them for “international terrorism”. All are members of Anarchosyndicalist Initiative (ASI), an organization that is not related with such attacks, while the arrested also made clear that they have no relation with the attack.

For one more time, the basic characteristics of the security state, that is being built in every country, become visible: increased repression, attack at the parts of the society that resist (in the particular case at anarchosyndicalists) and imposition of the doctrine of order and security. The state tries with every mean to accentuate the repression against politically radical groups: it names a simple attack with minimal material damage as “international terrorism” and afterwards it persecutes anarchosyndicalists without any clues. Purpose? The demoralisation of every political criticism against the dominating mechanisms and the cracking down of the “internal enemy”. It is not important if this is named “anarchist”, “immigrant” or “koukouloforos” [trans: the Greek state names like this the rioters that hide their face, it means hood-wearer]. The important purpose is the creation of an enemy, the creation of a (marginalized) social group that will lead the rest of the society to the conservativisation and loyalty. In the particular case the state mechanisms acted as they are used to act: two molotov cocktails and an alfadi [trans: alpha in a circle, Ⓐ] are enough to persecute 6 irrelevant with the attack individuals, that are facing imprisonment of decades.The fact that they are in an anarchosyndicalist union is enough in order for them to form the role of the “internal enemy”. An “internal enemy” that the state structures will try in any way to not let it from moving aggressively towards the power. In front of the repressive mechanisms of the state, we shall not stand back, but we keep walking with solidarity as our weapon.



Autonomous group of “University of Macedonia” (Thessaloniki)

call for donations for the Serbian comrades:

On 04.09.2009, following the decision of the investigating judge of the District Court in Belgrade, the groups of six anarchists who were arrested 3rd of September 2009 were sentenced to detention measures up to thirty days. year. The charge states that the suspects, on 25th of August, about three o’clock in the morning, initially wrote the graffiti on the facade, and then threw two “molotov cocktails at the building of the Greek Embassy in “Francuska” street in Belgrade.

Wanting to brutally deal with it’s hardest critics, the state acts, through it’s mechanisms of repression, with utterly banal logic. Those who have explicitly expressed their libertarian beliefs are mapped as the only suspects. The case ends with their imprisonment and gives a false picture to the general public about state’s expediency.

Due to the unusual course of action of the police and prosecution in this case, the arrested are suspected of having committed a crime of international terrorism. That act, in the Criminal Code of the Republic of Serbia, is treated in the same group with the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes against the civilian population, organizing and encouraging to commit genocide and war crimes, the conduct of aggressive war, etc. Due to the legal weight of such characterization, the costs of the representation so far during the process have exceeded 10,000 euros.

For this purpose, the account was opened to help the arrested anarchists, which is listed at the bottom of this page. In addition, there is a phone number and e-mail that you can get additional information about the state of the arrested as well as the condition of the collected funds.

We hope that the freedom-loving individuals and organizations will get involved in this humanitarian fundraising action, and help the arrested anarchists to manage to prove their innocence.


Instructions for the donation of money:

Account with institution:




Beneficiarz customer:




announcement of Serbian intellectuals:

Announcement of the state prosecution institutions that they will press charges for an ”act of international terrorism” against six suspected of throwing two Molotov cocktails at the building of Greek Embassy in Belgrade made us write this letter and express our concern.

Without a desire to justify this kind of act in any way we consider it to be our duty to point out at what we believe to be political background of applying double standards that can have a devastating effect in further development of our society.

Not so long ago, during protest held on 21. February 2008 after proclamation of independence of Kosovo United States of America embassy building was burnt down in Belgrade. Embassy building was significantly damaged by fire while one of the attackers lost his life. The only participant of this attack that has been prosecuted is being charged for “heavy criminal act against public security”.

Contrary to this, state institutions have characterized the act of smashing a window on an empty building of Greek embassy with two burning bottles that didn’t cause fire as an act of international terrorism. In criminal law of Republic of Serbia that act is next to genocide, war crimes and leading an aggressive war.

We are afraid that such a different positioning of prosecution institutions regarding these two cases is motivated politically by some of the current authorities who are trying to improve their rating with nationalistically orientated voters.

This has an encouraging effect on strengthening chauvinistic and extreme right wing tendencies in our society just like those that have participated in burning down USA embassy in Belgrade without any significant legal consequences.

For this reason we are addressing the public as well as the state institutions hoping that by doing so we will contribute in making the law treat all members of our society equally and adequately concerning the seriousness of act that has been done.

Zaga Golubović, Želimir Žilnik, Todor Kuljić, Vladimir Ilić
Boris Dežulović, Sonja Drljević, Ljubomir Živkov, Vladimir Aresinjević


Friday, September 11, 2009

Conversation with Raoul Vaneigem by Hans Ulrich Obrist

Conversation with Raoul Vaneigem
by Hans Ulrich Obrist
May 2009 / e-flux magazine
Translated from the French by Eric Anglès
HUO: In his book Utopistics, Immanuel Wallerstein claims that our world system is undergoing a structural crisis. He predicts it will take another twenty to fifty years for a more democratic and egalitarian system to replace it. He believes that the future belongs to “demarketized,” free-of-charge institutions (on the model, say, of public libraries). So we must oppose the marketization of water and air.1 What is your view?
RV: I do not know how long the current transformation will take (hopefully not too long, as I would like to witness it). But I have no doubt that this new alliance with the forces of life and nature will disseminate equality and freeness. We must go beyond our natural indignation at profit’s appropriation of our water, air, soil, environment, plants, animals. We must establish collectives that are capable of managing natural resources for the benefit of human interests, not market interests. This process of reappropriation that I foresee has a name: self-management, an experience attempted many times in hostile historical contexts. At this point, given the implosion of consumer society, it appears to be the only solution from both an individual and social point of view.
HUO: In your writing you have described the work imperative as an inhuman, almost animal condition. Do you consider market society to be a regression?
RV: As I mentioned above, evolution in the Paleolithic age meant the development of creativity—the distinctive trait of the human species as it breaks free from its original animality. But during the Neolithic, the osmotic relationship to nature loosened progressively, as intensive agriculture became based on looting and the exploitation of natural resources. It was also then that religion surfaced as an institution, society stratified, the reign of patriarchy began, of contempt for women, and of priests and kings with their stream of wars, destitution, and violence. Creation gave way to work, life to survival, jouissance to the animal predation that the appropriation economy confiscates, transcends, and spiritualizes. In this sense market civilization is indeed a regression in which technical progress supersedes human progress.
HUO: For you, what is a life in progress?
RV: Advancing from survival, the struggle for subsistence and predation to a new art of living, by recreating the world for the benefit of all.
HUO: My interviews often focus on the connections between art and architecture/urbanism, or literature and architecture/urbanism. Could you tell me about the Bureau of Unitary Urbanism?
RV: That was an idea more than a project. It was about the urgency of rebuilding our social fabric, so damaged by the stranglehold of the market. Such a rebuilding effort goes hand in hand with the rebuilding by individuals of their own daily existence. That is what psychogeography is really about: a passionate and critical deciphering of what in our environment needs to be destroyed, subjected to détournement, rebuilt.
HUO: In your view there is no such thing as urbanism?
RV: Urbanism is the ideological gridding and control of individuals and society by an economic system that exploits man and Earth and transforms life into a commodity. The danger in the self-built housing movement that is growing today would be to pay more attention to saving money than to the poetry of a new style of life.
HUO: How do you see cities in the year 2009? What kind of unitary urbanism for the third millennium? How do you envision the future of cities? What is your favorite city? You call Oarystis the city of desire. Oarystis takes its inspiration from the world of childhood and femininity. Nothing is static in Oarystis. John Cage once said that, like nature, “one never reaches a point of shapedness or finishedness. The situation is in constant unpredictable change.”2 Do you agree with Cage?
RV: I love wandering through Venice and Prague. I appreciate Mantua, Rome, Bologna, Barcelona, and certain districts of Paris. I care less about architecture than about how much human warmth its beauty has been capable of sustaining. Even Brussels, so devastated by real estate developers and disgraceful architects (remember that in the dialect of Brussels, “architect” is an insult), has held on to some wonderful bistros. Strolling from one to the next gives Brussels a charm that urbanism has deprived it of altogether. The Oarystis I describe is not an ideal city or a model space (all models are totalitarian). It is a clumsy and naïve rough draft for an experiment I still hope might one day be undertaken—so I agree with John Cage. This is not a diagram, but an experimental proposition that the creation of an environment is one and the same as the creation by individuals of their own future.
HUO: Is Oarystis based on natural power, like the Metabolist cities? Rem Koolhaas and I are working on a book on the Japanese Metabolists. When I read your wonderful text on Oarystis, I was reminded of that movement from the 1960s, especially the floating cities, Kikutake’s water cities. Is Oarystis a Metabolist city?
RV: When Oarystis was published, the architect Philippe Rothier and Diane Hennebert, who ran Brussels’ Architecture Museum at the time, rightly criticized me for ignoring the imaginative projects of a new generation of builders. Now that the old world is collapsing, the fusion of free natural power, self-built housing techniques, and the reinvention of sensual form is going to be decisive. So it is useful to remember that technical inventiveness must stem from the reinvention of individual and collective life. That is to say, what allows for genuine rupture and ecstatic inventiveness is self-management: the management by individuals and councils of their own lives and environment through direct democracy. Let us entrust the boundless freedoms of the imaginary to childhood and the child within us.
HUO: Several years ago I interviewed Constant on New Babylon. What were your dialogues with Constant and how do you see New Babylon today?
RV: I never met Constant, who if I am not mistaken had been expelled before my own association with the SI. New Babylon’s flaw is that it privileges technology over the formation of an individual and collective way of life—the necessary basis of any architectural concept. An architectural project only interests me if it is about the construction of daily life.
HUO: How can the city of the future contribute to biodiversity?
RV: By drawing inspiration from Alphonse Allais, by encouraging the countryside to infiltrate the city. By creating zones of organic farming, gardens, vegetable plots, and farms inside urban space. After all, there are so many bureaucratic and parasitical buildings that can't wait to give way to fertile, pleasant land that is useful to all. Architects and squatters, build us some hanging gardens where we can go for walks, eat, and live!
HUO: Oarystis is in the form of a maze, but it is also influenced by Venice and its public piazzas. Could you tell us about the form of Oarystis?
RV: Our internal space-time is maze-like. In it, each of us is at once Theseus, Ariadne, and Minotaur. Our dérives would gain in awareness, alertness, harmony, and happiness if only external space-time could offer meanders that could conjure up the possible courses of our futures, as an analogy or echo of sorts—one that favors games of life, and prevents their inversion into games of death.
HUO: Will museums be abolished? Could you discuss the amphitheater of memory? A protestation against oblivion?
RV: The museum suffers from being a closed space in which works waste away. Painting, sculpture, music belong to the street, like the façades that contemplate us and come back to life when we greet them. Like life and love, learning is a continuous flow that enjoys the privilege of irrigating and fertilizing our sentient intelligence. Nothing is more contagious than creation. But the past also carries with it all the dross of our inhumanity. What should we do with it? A museum of horrors, of the barbarism of the past? I attempted to answer the question of the “duty of memory” in Ni pardon, ni talion [Neither Forgiveness Nor Retribution]:
Most of the great men we were brought up to worship were nothing more than cynical or sly murderers. History as taught in schools and peddled by an overflowing and hagiographic literature is a model of falsehood; to borrow a fashionable term, it is negationist. It might not deny the reality of gas chambers, it might no longer erect monuments to the glory of Stalin, Mao or Hitler, but it persists in celebrating the brutish conqueror: Alexander, called the Great—whose mentor was Aristotle, it is proudly intoned—Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, Napoleon, the throngs of generals, slaughterers of peoples, petty tyrants of the city or the state, torturer–judges, Javerts of every ilk, conniving diplomats, rapists and killers contracted by religions and ideologies; so much high renown carved from baseness, wickedness, and abjection. I am not suggesting we should unpave the avenues of official history and pave the side alleys instead. We are not in need of a purged history, but of a knowledge that scoops out into broad daylight facts that have been obscured, generation after generation, by the unceasing stratification of prejudice. I am not calling for a tribunal of the mind to begin condemning a bunch of undesirables who have been bizarrely put up on pedestals and celebrated in the motley pantheons of official memory. I just want to see the list of their crimes, the mention of their victims, the recollection of those who confronted them added to the inventory of their unsavory eulogies. I am not suggesting that the name of Francisco Ferrer wipe out that of his murderer, Alfonso XIII, but that at the very least everything be known of both. How dare textbooks still cultivate any respect for Bonaparte, responsible for the death of millions, for Louis XIV, slaughterer of peasants and persecutor of Protestants and freethinkers? For Calvin, murderer of Jacques Gruet and Michel Servet and dictator of Geneva, whose citizens, in tribute to Sébastien Castellion, would one day resolve to destroy the emblems and signs of such an unworthy worship? While Spain has now toppled the effigies of Francoism and rescinded the street names imposed by fascism, we somehow tolerate, towering in the sky of Paris, that Sacré-Coeur whose execrable architecture glorifies the crushing of the Commune. In Belgium there are still avenues and monuments honoring King Leopold II, one of the most cynical criminals of the nineteenth century, whose “red rubber” policy—denounced by Mark Twain, by Roger Casement (who paid for this with his life), by Edward Dene Morel, and more recently by Adam Hochschild—has so far bothered nary a conscience. This is a not a call to blow up his statues or to chisel away the inscriptions that celebrate him. This is a call to Belgian and Congolese citizens to cleanse and disinfect public places of this stain, the stain of one of the worst sponsors of colonial savagery. Paradoxically, I do tend to believe that forgetting can be productive, when it comes to the perpetrators of inhumanity. A forgetting that does not eradicate remembering, that does not blue-pencil memory, that is not an enforceable judgment, but that proceeds rather from a spontaneous feeling of revulsion, like a last-minute pivot to avoid dog droppings on the sidewalk. Once they have been exposed for their inhumanity, I wish for the instigators of past brutalities to be buried in the shroud of their wrongs. Let the memory of the crime obliterate the memory of the criminal.3
HUO: Learning is deserting schools and going to the streets. Are streets becoming Thinkbelts? Cedric Price’s Potteries Thinkbelt used abandoned railroads for pop-up schools. What and where is learning today?
RV: Learning is permanent for all of us regardless of age. Curiosity feeds the desire to know. The call to teach stems from the pleasure of transmitting life: neither an imposition nor a power relation, it is pure gift, like life, from which it flows. Economic totalitarianism has ripped learning away from life, whose creative conscience it ought to be. We want to disseminate everywhere this poetry of knowledge that gives itself. Against school as a closed-off space (a barrack in the past, a slave market nowadays), we must invent nomadic learning.
HUO: How do you foresee the twenty-first-century university?
RV: The demise of the university: it will be liquidated by the quest for and daily practice of a universal learning of which it has always been but a pale travesty.
HUO: Could you tell me about the freeness principle (I am extremely interested in this; as a curator I have always believed museums should be free—Art for All, as Gilbert and George put it).
RV: Freeness is the only absolute weapon capable of shattering the mighty self-destruction machine set in motion by consumer society, whose implosion is still releasing, like a deadly gas, bottom-line mentality, cupidity, financial gain, profit, and predation. Museums and culture should be free, for sure, but so should public services, currently prey to the scamming multinationals and states. Free trains, buses, subways, free healthcare, free schools, free water, air, electricity, free power, all through alternative networks to be set up. As freeness spreads, new solidarity networks will eradicate the stranglehold of the commodity. This is because life is a free gift, a continuous creation that the market’s vile profiteering alone deprives us of.
HUO: Where is love in Oarystis?
RV: Everywhere. The love affair, as complex as it is simple, will serve as the building block for the new solidarity relations that sooner or later will supersede selfish calculation, competition, competitiveness, and predation, causes of our societies' dehumanization.
HUO: Where is the city of the dead? In a forest rather than a cemetery?
RV: Yes, a forest, an auditorium in which the voices of the dead will speak amidst the lushness of nature, where life continuously creates itself anew.
HUO: Have you dreamt up other utopian cities apart from Oarystis? Or a concrete utopia in relation to the city?
RV: No, but I have not given up hope that such projects might mushroom and be realized one day, as we begin reconstructing a world devastated by the racketeering mafias.
HUO: In 1991 I founded a Robert Walser museum, a strollological museum, in Switzerland. I have always been fascinated by your notion of the stroll. Could you say something about your urban strolls with and without Debord? What about Walser’s? Have other strollologists inspired you?
RV: I hold Robert Walser in high regard, as many do. His lucidity and sense of dérive enchanted Kafka. I have always been fascinated by the long journey Hölderlin undertook following his break-up with Diotima. I admire Chatwin’s Songlines, in which he somehow manages to turn the most innocuous of walks into an intonation of the paths of fate, as though we were in the heart of the Australian bush. And I appreciate the strolls of Léon-Paul Fargue and the learning of Héron de Villefosse. My psychogeographic dérives with Guy Debord in Paris, Barcelona, Brussels, Beersel, and Antwerp were exceptional moments, combining theoretical speculation, sentient intelligence, the critical analysis of beings and places, and the pleasure of cheerful drinking. Our homeports were pleasant bistros with a warm atmosphere, havens where one was oneself because one felt in the air something of the authentic life, however fragile and short-lived. It was an identical mood that guided our wanderings through the streets, the lanes and the alleys, through the meanderings of a pleasure that our every step helped us gauge in terms of what it might take to expand and refine it just a little further. I have a feeling that the neighborhoods destroyed by the likes of Haussmann, Pompidou, and the real estate barbarians will one day be rebuilt by their inhabitants in the spirit of the joy and the life they once harbored.
HUO: What possibilities do you see for disalienation and détournement in 2009?
RV: This is a time of unprecedented chaos in material and moral conditions. Human values are going to have to compensate for the effects of the only value that has prevailed so far: money. But the implosion of financial totalitarianism means that this currency, which has so tripped us up, is now doomed to devaluation and a loss of all meaning. The absurdity of money is becoming concrete. It will gradually give way to new forms of exchange that will hasten its disappearance and lead to a gift economy.
HUO: What are the conditions for dialogue in 2009? Is there a way out of this system of isolation?
RV: Dialogue with power is neither possible nor desirable. Power has always acted unilaterally, by organizing chaos, by spreading fear, by forcing individuals and communities into selfish and blind withdrawal. As a matter of course, we will invent new solidarity networks and new intervention councils for the well-being of all of us and each of us, overriding the fiats of the state and its mafioso-political hierarchies. The voice of lived poetry will sweep away the last remaining echoes of a discourse in which words are in profit’s pay.
HUO: In your recent books you discuss your existence and temporality. The homogenizing forces of globalization homogenize time, and vice versa. How does one break with this? Could you discuss the temporality of happiness, as a notion?
RV: The productivity- and profit-based economy has implanted into lived human reality a separate reality structured by its ruling mechanisms: predation, competition and competitiveness, acquisitiveness and the struggle for power and subsistence. For thousands of years such denatured human behaviors have been deemed natural. The temporality of draining, erosion, tiredness, and decay is determined by labor, an activity that dominates and corrupts all others. The temporality of desire, love, and creation has a density that fractures the temporality of survival cadenced by work. Replacing the temporality of money will be a temporality of desire, a beyond-the-mirror, an opening to uncharted territories.
HUO: Is life ageless?
RV: I don't claim that life is ageless. But since survival is nothing but permanent agony relieved by premature death, a renatured life that cultivates its full potential for passion and creation would surely achieve enough vitality to delay its endpoint considerably.
HUO: The Revolution of Everyday Life was a trigger for May ’68, and you have stated in other interviews that it is your key book that you are continually rewriting. Was the book an epiphany? How did it change the course of your work? What had you been doing previously?
RV: The book was prompted by an urgent need I was feeling at the time for a new perspective on the world and on myself, to pull me out of my state of survival, by means other than through suicide. This critical take on a consumer society that was corrupting and destroying life so relentlessly made me aware and conscious of my own life drive. And it became clear to me very quickly that this wasn't a purely solipsistic project, that many readers were finding their own major concerns echoed there.
HUO: The Revolution of Everyday Life ends on an optimistic note: “We have a world of pleasures to win, and nothing to lose but boredom.”4 Are you still an optimist today?
RV: “Pessimists, what is it you were hoping for?,” Scutenaire wrote. I am neither a pessimist nor an optimist. I try to remain faithful to a principle: desire everything, expect nothing.
HUO: What is the most recent version of the book?
RV: Entre le deuil du monde et la joie de vivre [Between Mourning the World and Exuberant Life].
HUO: What book are you working on at the moment?
RV: I would love to have the resources to complete a Dictionary of Heresies, so as to clarify and correct the historical elements included in The Movement of the Free Spirit and Resistance to Christianity.
HUO: The question of temporality also brings us to Proust and his questionnaire (see inset). What might your definition of happiness be in 2009?
RV: Living ever more intensely and passionately in an ever more intense world. To those who sneer at my ecstatic candor, I reply with a phrase that brings me great comfort: “The desire for an other life is that life already.”5
HUO: Do you have unrealized projects? Unrealized books, unrealized projects in fields other than writing, unrealized architectural projects?
RV: My priority is to live better and better in a world that is more and more human. I would love to build the “urban countryside” of Oarystis, but I’m not just waiting patiently, like Fourier at the Palais Royal, for some billionaire to decide to finance the project only to lose everything to the financial crash a minute later.
HUO: What about your collaborations with other artists, painters, sculptors, designers, filmmakers?
RV: I don't collaborate with anyone. At times I have offered a few texts to artist friends, not as a commentary on their work but as a counterpoint to it. Art moves me when, in it, I can sense its own overcoming, something that goes beyond it; when it nurtures a trace of life that blossoms as a true aspiration, the intuition of a new art of living.
HUO: Could you tell me about Brussels? What does Brussels mean to you? Where do you write?
RV: I live in the country, facing a garden and woods where the rhythm of the seasons has retained its beauty. Brussels as a city has been destroyed by urbanists and architects who are paid by real estate developers. There are still a few districts suitable for nice walks. I am fond of a good dozen wonderful cafés where one can enjoy excellent artisanal beers.
HUO: Do you agree with Geremek’s view that Europe is the big concern of the twenty-first century?
RV: I am not interested in this Europe ruled by racketeering bureaucracies and corrupt democracies. And regions only interest me once they are stripped of their regionalist ideology and are experiencing self-management and direct democracy. I feel neither Belgian nor European. The only homeland is a humanity that is at long last sovereign.
HUO: You have used a lot of pseudonyms. Je est un autre [I is an other]? How do you find or choose pseudonyms? How many pseudonyms have you used? Is there a complete list?
RV: I don't keep any kind of score. I leave it up to the inspiration of the moment. There is nothing secret about using a pseudonym. Rather, it is about creating a distance, most often in commissioned work. This allows me to have some fun while alleviating my enduring financial difficulties, which I have always refused to resolve by compromising with the world of the spectacle.
HUO: A book that has been used by many artists and architects has been your Dictionnaire de citations pour servir au divertissement et a l’intelligence du temps [Dictionary of Quotations for the Entertainment and Intelligence of Our Time]. Where did that idea come from?
RV: It was a suggestion from my friend Pierre Drachline, who works for the Cherche Midi publishing house.
HUO: You have often criticized environmental movements who try to replace existing capitalism with capitalism of a different type. What do you think of Joseph Beuys? What non-capitalist project or movement do you support?
RV: We are being “offered” biofuels on the condition we agree to transgenic rapeseed farming. Eco-tourism will accelerate the plundering of our biosphere. Windmill farms are being built without any advantage to the consumers. Those are the areas where intervention is possible. Natural resources belong to us, they are free, they must be made to serve the freedom of life. It will be up to the communities to secure their own energy and food independence so as to free themselves from the control of the multinationals and their state vassals everywhere. Claiming natural power for our use means reclaiming our own existence first. Only creativity will rid us of work.
HUO: Last but not least, Rilke wrote that wonderful little book of advice to a young poet. What would your advice be to a young philosopher-writer in 2009?
RV: To apply to his own life the creativity he displays in his work. To follow the path of the heart, of what is most alive in him.
1 See Immanuel Wallerstein, Utopistics: Or, Historical Choices of the Twenty-first Century (New York: The New Press, 1998).
2 Quoted in Richard Kostelanetz, Conversing with Cage, 2nd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2003), 34.
3 Raoul Vaneigem, Ni pardon ni talion: La question de l'impunité dans les crimes contre l'humanité (Paris: Editions La Découverte, 2009).
4 Raoul Vaneigem, The Revolution of Everyday Life, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (Welcombe, UK: Rebel Press, 2001), 279.
5 See Raoul Vaneigem, “Le désir d’une vie autre est déjà cette vie-là,” Cahiers internationaux de symbolisme 119–121 (2008): 193–194.
Hans Ulrich Obrist is a Swiss curator and art critic. In 1993, he founded the Museum Robert Walser and began to run the Migrateurs program at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris where he served as a curator for contemporary art. In 1996 he co-curated Manifesta 1, the first edition of the roving European biennial of contemporary art. He presently serves as the Co-Director, Exhibitions and Programmes and Director of International Projects at the Serpentine Gallery in London.
Raoul Vaneigem is a Belgian writer and philosopher. After studying romance philology at the Free University of Brussels (now split into the Université Libre de Bruxelles and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel) from 1952 to 1956, he participated in the Situationist International from 1961 to 1970. His most well-known book, The Revolution of Everyday Life, was published in 1967, the same year as fellow situationist Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle.
from -- the issue has a number of other interesting articles

Sunday, September 6, 2009

1968 and Doors to New Worlds by John Holloway

1968? Why talk about 1968? There are so many urgent things happening. Let’s talk of Oaxaca and Chiapas and the danger of civil war in Mexico. Let’s talk of the war in Iraq and the rapid destruction of the natural preconditions of human existence. Is this really a good moment for old men to sit back and reminisce?
But perhaps we need to talk of 1968 because, even in the face of all the real urgency, we are feeling lost and need some sense of direction: not to find the road (because the road does not exist) but to create many paths. Perhaps 1968 has something to do with our feeling lost, and perhaps it has something to do with making new paths. So let us talk of 1968.
1968 opened the door to a change in the world, a change in the rules of anti-capitalist conflict, a change in the meaning of anti-capitalist revolution, a change therefore in the meaning of hope. This is what we are still trying to understand. That is why I say that 1968 contributes to making us feel lost and is also a key to finding some orientation.
1968 was an explosion, and the sound of the explosion still echoes, difficult to distinguish from the sound of subsequent explosions that took up the themes of 1968 – most important perhaps 1994 and the series of explosions that is the Zapatista movement. So when I speak of 1968, it is not necessarily with historical precision: what interests me is the explosion and how, in the wake of that explosion, we can think of overcoming the catastrophe that is capitalism.
1968 was an explosion, the explosion of a certain constellation of social forces, a certain pattern of social conflict. Sometimes this constellation is referred to as Fordism. The term has the great merit of drawing our attention immediately to the core question of the way in which our daily activity is organised. It refers to a world in which mass production in the factories was integrated with the promotion of mass consumption through a combination of relatively high wages and the so-called welfare state. Central actors in this process were the trade unions, whose participation in the system of regular wage negotiations was a driving force, and the state, which appeared to have the capacity of regulating the economy and ensuring basic levels of social welfare. In such a society, it was not surprising that aspirations for social change concentrated on the state, and on the goal of taking state power, either by electoral means or otherwise. Possibly it would be more accurate to speak of this pattern of class relations not just as Fordism, but as Fordism-Keynesianism-Leninism.
I want to suggest that there was something even more profound at issue. The danger in restricting ourselves to the idea of the crisis of Fordism (or indeed Fordism-Keynesianism-Leninism) is that the term invites us to see this as one of a series of modes of regulation which would then be superseded by another (post-Fordism or Empire or whatever): capitalism is then seen as a series of restructurings, or syntheses, or closures, whereas our problem is not to write a history of capitalism but rather to find a way out of this catastrophe. It is necessary to go beyond the concept of Fordism. Fordism was an extremely developed form of alienated or abstract labour and what was challenged in these years was alienated labour, the very heart of capitalism.
Abstract labour (I use the word that Marx used in Capital, because it seems to me a richer concept) is the labour that produces value and surplus value, and therefore capital. Marx contrasts it with useful or concrete labour, the activity that is necessary for the reproduction of any society. Abstract labour is labour seen in abstraction from its particular characteristics, it is labour that is equivalent to any other labour and this equivalence is established through exchange or its administrative analogies. The abstraction is not just a mental abstraction: it is a real abstraction, the fact that the products are produced for exchange rebounds upon the production process itself and converts it into a process in which all that matters is the performance of socially necessary labour, the efficient production of commodities that will sell. Abstract labour is labour devoid of particularity, devoid of meaning. Abstract labour produces the society of capital, a society in which the only meaning is the accumulation of abstract labour, the constant pursuit of profit.
Abstract labour weaves the society in which we live. It weaves the multiplicity of human activities together through the repeated process of exchange, through this process that tells us over and over again “it does not matter what you enjoy doing, how much love and care you put into it, what matters is whether it will sell, what matters is how much money you can get for it.” That is the way our different activities are woven together, that is the way capitalist society is constructed.
But the weaving goes much further than that: because this way of relating to one another, through the exchange of things, creates a general thing-ification, or reification, or fetishisation of social relations. In the same way that the thing we create separates itself from us and stands against us, negating its origins, so all aspects of our relations with other people acquire the character of things. Money becomes a thing, rather than just a relation between different creators. The state becomes a thing rather than just a way in which we organise our common affairs. Sex becomes a thing rather than just the multiplicity of different ways in which people touch and relate physically. Nature becomes a thing to be used for our benefit, rather than the complex interrelation of the different forms of life that share this planet. Time becomes a thing, clock-time, a time outside us that tells us that tomorrow will be the same as today, rather than just the rhythms of our living, the intensities and relaxations of our doing. And so on.
By performing abstract labour, we weave, we weave, we weave this world that is so rapidly destroying us. And each part of the weave gives strength and solidity to each other part of the weave. At the centre is our activity as abstract labour, but the empty meaningless abstraction of our labour is held in place by the whole structure of abstraction or alienation that we create: the state, the idea and practice of dimorphous sexuality, the objectification of nature, the living of time as clock time, the seeing of space as space contained within boundaries, and so on. All these different dimensions of abstract meaninglessness are created by and in turn reinforce the abstract meaninglessness of our daily activity which is at its core. It is this complex weave that is blown in the air in 1968.
How? What is the force behind the explosion? It is not the working class, at least not in the traditional sense. Factory workers do play an important part, especially in France, but they do not play a central role in the explosion of 1968. Nor can it be understood in terms of any particular group. It is rather a social relation, the relation of abstract labour, that explodes. The force behind the explosion has to be understood not as a group but as the underside of abstract labour, the contradiction of abstract labour, that which abstract labour contains but does not contain, that which abstract labour represses but does not repress. This is what explodes.
What is the underside of abstract labour? There is a problem here with vocabulary, and not by chance, because that which is repressed tends to be invisible, without voice, without name. We can call it anti-alienation, or anti-abstraction. In the 1844 Manuscripts Marx refers to anti-alienation as “conscious life-activity” and in Capital, the contrast is between abstract labour and “useful or concrete labour”. This term is not entirely satisfactory, partly because the distinction between labour and other forms of activity is not common to all societies. For that reason, I shall refer to the underside of abstract labour as doing: doing rather than just anti-alienation because what is at issue is first and foremost the way in which human activity is organised.
Capitalism is based on abstract labour, but there is always an underside, another aspect of activity that appears to be totally subordinated to abstract labour, but is not and cannot be. Abstract labour is the activity that creates capital and weaves capitalist domination, but there is always another side, a doing that retains or seeks to retain its particularity, that pushes towards some sort of meaning, some sort of self-determination. Marx points right at the beginning of Capital to the relation between abstract and useful labour as the pivot upon which the understanding of political economy (and therefore capitalism) turns – a sentence almost totally ignored by the whole Marxist tradition.
Within capitalism, useful labour (doing) exists in the form of abstract labour, but the relation of form and content cannot be understood simply as containment: inevitably, it is one of in-against-and-beyond: doing exists in-against-and-beyond abstract labour. This is a matter of everyday experience, as we all try to find some way of directing our activity towards what we consider desirable or necessary. Even within our abstract labour we try to find some way of not submitting totally to the rule of money. As professors we try to do something more than producing the functionaries of capital, as assembly line workers we move our fingers along an imaginary guitar in the seconds we have free, as nurses we try to help our patients beyond the incentive of money, as students we dream of a life not determined totally by money. There is an antagonistic relation between our doing and the abstraction (or alienation) which capital imposes, a relation not only of subordination but also of resistance, revolt and pushing beyond.
This is always present, but it explodes in 1968, as a generation no longer so tamed by the experience of fascism and war rise up and say, “No, we shall not dedicate our lives to the rule of money, we shall not dedicate all the days of our lives to abstract labour, we shall do something else instead.” The revolt against capital expresses itself clearly as that which it always is and must be: a revolt against labour. It becomes clear that we cannot think of class struggle as labour against capital because labour is on the same side of capital, labour produces capital. The struggle is not that of labour against capital, but of doing (or living) against labour and therefore against capital. This is what is expressed in the universities, this is what is expressed in the factories, this is what is expressed on the streets in 1968. This is what makes it impossible for capital to increase the rate of exploitation sufficiently to maintain its rate of profit and hold Fordism in place.
It is the force of doing, that is, the force of saying “no, we shall not live like that that, we shall do otherwise”, that blows apart that constellation of struggle based on the extreme abstraction of labour that is expressed in Fordism. It is a revolt that is directed against all aspects of the abstraction of labour: not just the alienation of labour in the narrow sense, but also the fetishisation of sex, nature, time, space and also against the state-oriented forms of organisation that are part of that fetishisation. There is a release, an emancipation: it becomes possible to think and do things that were not possible before. The force of the explosion, the force of the struggle, splits open the category of labour (opened by Marx but closed in practice by the Marxist tradition) and with it all the other categories of thought.
The explosion throws us into a new world. It throws us onto a new battlefield, characterised by a new constellation of struggles that is distinctively open. This is crucial: if we leap to talk of a new mode of domination (Empire or post-Fordism), then we are closing dimensions that we are struggling to keep open. In other words, there is a real danger that by analysing the so-called new paradigm of domination, we give it a solidity which it does not merit and which we certainly do not want. The relatively coherent weave that existed before the explosion is torn apart. It is in the interests of capital to put it back together again, to establish a new pattern. Anti-capitalism moves in the opposite direction, tearing apart, pushing the cracks as far as it can.
The old constellation was based on the antagonism between labour and capital, with all that that meant in terms of trade unions, corporatism, parties, welfare state and so on. If we are right in saying that the new constellation must be understood as having at its centre the antagonism between doing and abstract labour, then this means rethinking radically what anti-capitalism means, what revolution means. All the established practices and ideas bound up with abstract labour come into question: labour, sexuality, nature, state, time, space, all become battlegrounds of struggle.
The new constellation (or better, the constellation that showed its face clearly in 1968 and still struggles to be born) is the constellation of doing against abstract labour. This means that it is fundamentally negative. Doing exists in and against abstract labour: in so far as it breaks through abstract labour and exists also beyond it (as cooperative, as social centre, as Junta de Buen Gobierno), it is always at risk, always shaped by its antagonism with abstract labour and threatened by it. Once we positivise it, seeing it as an autonomous space, or as socialism in one country or in one social centre, or as a cooperative that is not in movement against capitalism, it quickly converts itself into its opposite. The struggles against capital are fast-moving and unstable: they exist on the edge of evanescence and cannot be judged from the positivity of institutions.
The movement of doing against labour is anti-identitarian, therefore: the movement of non-identity against identity. This is important for practical reasons, simply because capital’s restructuring is the attempt to contain the new struggles within identities. The struggles of women, of blacks, of indigenous, as long as they are contained within their respective identity, pose no problem at all for the reproduction of a system of abstract labour. On the contrary, the re-consolidation of abstract labour probably depends on the re-shuffling of these identities, as identities, the re-focusing of struggles into limited, identitarian struggles. The Zapatista movement creates no challenge to capitalism as long as it remains a struggle for indigenous rights: it is when the struggle overflows identity, when the Zapatistas say “we are indigenous but more than that”, when they say that they are struggling to make the world anew, to create a world based on the mutual recognition of dignity, that is when they constitute a threat to capitalism. The struggle of doing is the struggle to overflow the fetishised categories of identity. We fight not so much for women’s rights as for a world in which the division of people into two sexes (and the genitalisation of sexuality on which this division is based) is overcome, not so much for the protection of nature as for a radical rethinking of the relation between different forms of life, not so much for migrants’ rights as for the abolition of frontiers.
In all this transformation, time is crucial. Homogeneous time was perhaps the most important cement of the old constellation, the constellation of abstract labour, accepted by the left as unquestioningly as by the right. In this view, revolution, if it could be imagined at all, could only be in the future. That has gone. What was previously seen as an inseparable pair, ‘future revolution’, is now seen to be pure nonsense. It is too late for future revolution. And anyway, every day in which we plan for a future revolution we recreate the capitalism that we hate, so that the very notion of future revolution is self-defeating. Revolution is here and now or not at all. That is implicit in 1968, with the movement’s refusal to wait until The Party considered that it was the right moment. That is made explicit in the Zapatistas’ ¡Ya basta! of 1 January 1994. Enough! Now! Not “we shall wait until the next Kondratieff cycle completes its circle”. And not “we shall wait until the Party conquers state power”. But now: revolution here and now!
What this does mean? It can only mean a multiplicity of struggles from the particular, the creation of spaces or moments in which we seek to live now the society we want to create. This means the creation of cracks in the system of capitalist command, moments or spaces in which we say, “No, we shall not do what capital requires of us, we shall do what we consider necessary or desirable.”
Inevitably, this means an understanding of anti-capitalist struggle as a multiplicity of very different struggles. This is not a multiplication of identities, but the rapid movement of anti-identitarian struggles that touch and diverge, infect and repel, a creative chaos of cracks that multiply and spread and at times are filled up and reappear and spread again. This is the polyphonic revolt of doing against abstract labour. It is necessarily polyphonic. To deny its polyphony would be to subordinate it to a new form of abstraction. The world we are trying to create, the world of useful doing or conscious life activity is necessarily a world of many worlds. And this means, of course, forms of organisation that seek to articulate and respect this polyphony: anti-state forms, in other words.
From the outside and sometimes from within, this polyphony seems to be just a chaotic, dissonant noise without direction or unity, without a meta-narrative. That is a mistake. The meta-narrative is not the same as before 1968, but there is a meta-narrative, with two faces. The first face of this meta-narrative is simply NO, ¡Ya basta! And the second face is Dignity, we live now the world we want to create, or in other words We Do.
Perhaps we can conclude by saying that 1968 was the crisis of the working class as prose, its birth as poetry: the crisis of the working class as abstract labour, its birth as useful-creative doing. The intervening years have shown us how difficult it is to write poetry, how difficult and how necessary.
‘1968’ wasn’t just about Paris and the ‘French May’. ‘1968’ is a shorthand for a whole series of uprisings, insurgencies and revolutions that occurred across the planet over an explosive three-year period with no clearly defined beginning or end. In the United States, 1967’s ‘summer of love’ gave way to militant protests against war in Vietnam, uprisings in more than a hundred cities and a ‘police riot’ at the Democratic Party convention in Chicago. In Mexico City months of political unrest were crushed only by the Tlatelolcho Massacre, when army and police murdered 200–300 people just days before the opening of the Olympic Games. During the Games, athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised the Black Power salute on the winners’ podium.
In Czechoslovakia, the Prague Spring ended only when Russian tanks rolled into the country. Nationalist residents of Northern Ireland’s second-largest city repelled both police and loyalist thugs and declared the autonomous area of Free Derry. There were revolts, strikes, occupations and all types of other political activity in countless other countries, including Germany, Pakistan, Bolivia, Spain, Japan, Poland, Belgium, Sweden, Great Britain, Brazil, Nigeria, Senegal, Serbia, Austria, Turkey, Hong Kong, Egypt and Lebanon. Italy’s ‘hot autumn’ of 1969 opened up into the decade-long Autonomia movement.
**Juntas de Buen Gobierno – ‘Juntas of Good Government’ – are the councils established by the Zapatistas in their autonomous municipalities
John Holloway is the author of Change the World Without Taking Power: The Meaning of Revolution Today, of many books and articles about Zapatista movement and he is a thinker of Autonomia .
A Spanish translation of this article is available here, and a French translation here (PDF).
this article originaly published in Turbulence journal no.4: