Sunday, December 25, 2011

Raoul Vaneigem: What's Free is the Absolute Weapon / An interview with the former situationist by one of his old buddies

A member of the Situationist International from 1961 to 1970, Raoul Vaneigem is the author of Traité de savoir-vivre à l’usage des jeunes générations (Gallimard, 1967),[1] from which the most forceful slogans of May 68 were drawn, and around thirty other books. The most recent to appear is L’État n’est plus rien, soyons tout (Rue des Cascades, 2011).[2]

Siné Mensuel: Can you give a brief definition of the situationists?
Raoul Vaneigem: No. The living is irreducible to definitions. The vitality and radicality of the situationists continues to develop behind the scenes of a spectacle that has every reason to keep quiet and conceal itself. On the other hand, the ideological recuperation that this radicality has been subjected to has experienced a superficial surge, but its interests have nothing in common with mine.

Siné Mensuel: What did the situs mean when they said that situationism doesn't exist?
Raoul Vaneigem: The situationists were always hostile to ideologies, and to speak of situationism would be to place an ideology where there isn't one.

Siné Mensuel: Why did you break with the Situationist International in 1970? In hindsight, what do you think of Guy Debord?
Raoul Vaneigem: I broke [off] because the radicality that had been the priority in May 1968 was in the process of dissolving into bureaucratic behavior. Each member had chosen to pursue his route alone or to abandon the project of a self-managed society. Perhaps Debord and I felt more complicity than affection, but the split doesn't matter! What is sincerely lived is never lost. The rest is only the dregs of futility.

Siné Mensuel: What's your take on the Movement of the Indignant?[3]
Raoul Vaneigem: It is a public-safety reaction against the resignation and fear that provide the tyranny of capitalism with its best supports. But indignation isn't enough. It is less a matter of struggling against a system that is collapsing than in favor of new social structures founded upon direct democracy. While the State is destroying public services, only a self-managing movement can take charge of the well-being of everyone.

Siné Mensuel: Is utopianism still on the agenda?
Raoul Vaneigem: Utopianism? From now on, that's the hell of the past. We have always been constrained to live in a place that is everywhere but, in that place, we are nowhere. That's the reality of our exile. It has been imposed on us for thousands of years by an economy founded on the exploitation of man by man. Humanist ideology has made us believe that we are human while we remain, for the most part, reduced to the state of beasts whose predatory instincts are satisfied by the will to power and appropriation. Our "veil of tears" was considered the best possible world. Could we have invented a way of living that is more phantasmagorical and absurd than the all-powerful cruelty of the gods, the caste of priests and princes ruling enslaved peoples, the obligation to work that is supposed to guarantee joy and substantiate the Stalinist paradise, the millenarianist Third Reich, the Maoist Cultural Revolution, the society of well-being (the Welfare state[4]), the totalitarianism of money beyond which there is neither individual nor social safety, [and] finally the idea that survival is everything and life is nothing? Against that utopia, which passes for reality, is opposed the only reality that matters: what we try to live by assuring our happiness and that of everyone else. Thenceforth, we no longer are in a utopia, but at the heart of a mutation, a change of civilization that takes shape under our eyes and that many people, blinded by the dominant obscurantism, are incapable of discerning. Because the quest for profit makes men into predatory, insensitive and stupid brutes.

Siné Mensuel: Explain to us how what's free [la gratuité] is, according to you, the first decisive step towards the end of money.
Raoul Vaneigem: Money isn't simply becoming devalued ([diminished] buying-power proves it); it invests itself so savagely in the bubble of stock-market speculation that it is doomed to implode. The tornado of short-term profit destroys everything in its path; it sterilizes the earth and hardens life so as to extract useless benefits. Humanely conceived, life is incompatible with the economy that exploits man and the earth for lucrative ends. Unlike survival, life gives and gives itself. What's free is the absolute weapon against the dictatorship of profit. In Greece, a "Don't Pay" movement is developing. At its beginning, the car-drivers refused tolls; they had the support of a collective of lawyers who sued the State, which was accused of selling the highways to private firms. Today it is a question of refusing to pay for public transportation, of demanding free health care and education, of no longer paying taxes and duties that serve to bail out the embezzled banks and enrich the stockholders. The fight for pleasure in oneself and in the world doesn't pass through money, but, on the contrary, its absolute exclusion.
It is absurd that a strike obstructs the free circulation of people while it could decree free public transportation, health care, and education. It is necessary that we understand -- before the financial crash that is coming takes place -- that what's free is the absolute weapon of life against the economy. It is not a question of breaking men but breaking the system that exploits them and the machines that make them pay.

Siné Mensuel: You advocate civil disobedience. What does it mean to you?
Raoul Vaneigem: It is what's going on in Greece, Spain, Tunisia and Portugal. It is what summarizes the title of the pamphlet I wrote for our libertarian friends in Thessaloniki: The State is Nothing; We Are Everything. Civil disobedience is not an end in itself. It is the road towards direct democracy and generalized self-management, that is to say, the creation of conditions that are propitious for individual and collective happiness.
The project of self-management begins its realization when an assembly decides to ignore the State and, on its own initiative, puts in place the structures that are capable of responding to individual and collective needs. From 1936 to 1939, the libertarian collectives of Andalusia, Aragon and Catalonia successfully experimented with self-managing systems. The Spanish Communist Party and Lister's army crushed them, opening the way for Franco's troops.
To me, nothing seems more important today than the implementation of self-managing collectives capable of developing themselves when the monetary collapse makes money disappear and, along with it, a way of thinking implanted in our behavior for thousands of years.

Siné Mensuel: You disapprove of the carceral system, but in 1996, following the Dutroux Affair,[5] you participated in the "White March" in Brussels that, according to the French press, demanded greater prosecution of pedophiliac acts. Isn't this contradictory?
Raoul Vaneigem: This is a good example of an obvious journalistic counter-truth. If the parents of the victims of Dutroux had demanded the death penalty for the assassin, the crowd would have agreed. Thus, the opposite took place. I admire the courage and humanity of Gino and Carine Russo [parents of one of the victims], who are resolutely opposed to the death penalty (they have even warned that they wouldn't accept it if the murderer was eliminated by the other prisoners, as is the custom). The "White March" was an extremely rare example of a popular emotion that [directly] refused pedophilia and predators in the name of humanity, and not indirectly through penal repression. There was a dignity there, in contrast to the populist ignominy that consists in using emotion to promote brutish repression, vengeance. Today, where does one see a collective reaction that denounces the strategy of the scapegoat, which, in order to prevent the anger of the citizens from focusing on the ruinous racketeering mafias, sounds the alarm bell of fear and security so as to designate the other, the foreigner, the “different” – Jew, Arab, Gypsy, homosexual or, if need be, simple neighbor – as a potential threat and enemy?

Siné Mensuel: You have several children. Do you not find it cruel to deliberately give birth to new beings in this world?
Raoul Vaneigem: I loathe the pro-birth politics that, by mechanically multiplying children, condemns them to poverty, to sickness, to disaffection, and to military, sexual and work-related exploitation. Only religious, ideological and criminal [affairiste] obscurantism finds those politics to their advantage. But I refuse to allow a State or an authority of any kind to impose its ukases on me. Each person has the right to have children or to not have them. The important thing is that they are wanted and engendered with the consciousness that everything will be done to make them happy. There are new generations – completely different from the generations that were the fruits of familial authoritarianism, the cult of predation, and religious hypocrisy – that today are in the process of opposing the liberty of living according to their desires against market totalitarianism and its political yes-men.

Siné Mensuel: Tell us about animal rights [la cause animale], which revolutionary thinkers have not taken into account for a long time.
Raoul Vaneigem: It is less a question of animal rights than a reconciliation of man with a terrestrial nature that he has exploited for lucrative purposes until today. What has hindered the evolution of man towards a veritable humanity has been the alienation of the body put to work, the exploitation of the life force transformed into a productive force. Our residual animality has been repressed in the name of a spirit that is only the emanation of a heavenly and temporal power charged with taming terrestrial and corporal matter. Today, the alliance with natural energies is preparing to supplant the plundering of vital, planetary resources. To rediscover our relationship with the animal kingdom is to reconcile with the animal inside us; it is to refine it instead of oppressing it, repressing it, and condemning it to the cruelties of blowing-off steam. Our humanization implies recognizing the animal’s right to be respected, in its specificity.

Siné Mensuel: In Belgium, voting is obligatory, in principle at least. Have you ever voted? Do you pay the fines?
Raoul Vaneigem: I never vote. I have never received a fine.

Siné Mensuel: What lessons can be drawn from this long year, in which Belgium has had no government?[6]
Raoul Vaneigem: None. During the lucrative sleep of the politicians – those 55 government ministers don’t have problems making ends meet – the financial mafias have continued to make laws and do very well with the yes-men at their command.

Siné Mensuel: How do you see the on-going “revolutions” in the Arab countries? Does it seem to you that Islam is a threat to them?
Raoul Vaneigem: Where the social carries the day, religious preoccupations fade. The liberty that is currently getting rid of secular tyranny isn’t disposed to accommodate itself to religious tyranny. Islam will try to democratize itself and will experience the same decline as Christianity. I appreciate the Tunisian slogan “Freedom to pray, freedom to drink!”

Siné Mensuel: Finally, you remain an irreducible optimist, don’t you?
Raoul Vaneigem: I can content myself with Scutenaire’s formula:[7] “Pessimists! What did you expect?” But I am not an optimist or a pessimist. I don’t give a fuck about definitions. I want to live by beginning again each day. It will be necessary that the denunciation and refusal of our insupportable conditions yield their place to the working out of a human society that is an absolute break from market society.

(Remarks collected by Jean-Pierre Bouyxou. Published on 24 November 2011 by Siné Mensuel. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! 23 December 2011. Footnotes by the translator, except where noted.)

[1] Translated as The Revolution of Everyday Life (1983) by Donald Nicholson-Smith.
[2] The State is no longer anything, we are everything. Not yet translated into English.
[3] A series of spontaneous demonstrations in Spain, involving tens of thousands of people, starting on 15 May 2011.
[4] English in original.
[5] Marc Dutroux is a currently imprisoned child molester and child killer. It took the Belgian police and judicial system an extraordinarily long time to apprehend and prosecute him for crimes he committed in 1995 and 1996.
[6] Split in two geographically and politically – Flanders (Flemish Nationalist) and Wallonia (Socialist) – Belgium hasn’t had an official government since the parliamentary elections of 13 June 2010.
[7] Note by Siné Mensuel: the Belgian writer Louis Scutenaire (1905-1987) is the author of Mes inscriptions. Raoul Vaneigem devoted a book to him in the “Poets Today” Collection (Seghers, 1991).

published at

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"Social Mobility (in U.S.A.)? No, there is not!", by UnderstandingSociety


We often think of the United States as a place with a lot of social mobility. What exactly does this mean? And is it true? Ironically, the answer appears to be a fairly decisive "no." In fact, here's a graph from a 2005 New York Times series on income mobility that shows that the United States ranks second to last among Great Britain, US, France, Canada, and Denmark when it comes to the rate of income improvement over four generations for poor families. And here are two very interesting recent studies that come to similar conclusions -- a report on social mobility by the Center for American Progress and a 2007 academic study by researchers at Kent State, Wisconsin and Syracuse. Here is how Professor Kathryn Wilson, associate professor of economics at Kent State University, summarizes the main finding of the latter study: “People like to think of America as the land of opportunities. The irony is that our country actually has less social mobility and more inequality than most developed countries” (link).

Basically social mobility refers to the likelihood that a child will grow up into adulthood and attain a higher level of economic and social wellbeing than his/her family of origin. Is there a correlation between the socioeconomic status (SES) of an adult and his/her family of origin? Do poor people tend to have poor parents? And do poor parents tend to have children who end up as poor adults later in life? Does low SES in the parents' circumstances at a certain time in life -- say, the age of 30 -- serve to predict the SES of the child at the same age?

The fact of social mobility is closely tied to facts about social inequality and facts about social class. In a highly egalitarian society there would be little need for social mobility. And in a society with a fairly persistent class structure there is also relatively little social mobility -- because there is some set of mechanisms that limit entry and exit into the various classes. In the simplest terms, a social class is a sub-population within a society in which parents and their adult children tend to share similar occupations and economic circumstances of life. It is possible for a society to have substantial inequalities but also a substantial degree of social mobility. But there are good sociological reasons to suspect that this is a fairly unstable situation; groups with a significant degree of wealth and power are also likely to be in a position to arrange social institutions in such a way that privilege is transmitted across generations. (Here are several earlier postings on class; post, post, post.)

A crucial question to pose as we think about class and social mobility, is the issue of the social mechanisms through which children are launched into careers and economic positions in society. A pure meritocracy is a society in which specific social mechanisms distinguish between high-achieving and low-achieving individuals, assigning high-achieving individuals to desirable positions in society. A pure plutocracy is a society in which holders of wealth provide advantages to their children, ensuring that their adult children become the wealth-holders of the next generation. A caste system assigns children and young adults to occupations based on their ascriptive status. In each case there are fairly visible social mechanisms through which children from specific social environments are tracked into specific groups of roles in society. The sociological question is how these mechanisms work; in other words, we want to know about the "microfoundations" of the system of economic and social placement across generations.

In a society in which there is substantial equality of opportunity across all social groups, we would expect there to be little or no correlation between the SES of the parent and the child. We might have a very simple theory of the factors that determine an adult's SES in a society with extensive equality of opportunity: the sum total of the individual's talents, personality traits, and motivation strongly influence success in the pursuit of a career. (Chance also plays a role.) If talent is randomly distributed across the population, rich and poor; if all children are exposed to similar opportunities for the development of their talents; and if all walks of life are open to talent without regard to social status -- then we should find a zero correlation between parents' SES and adult child's SES. So, in this simple model, evidence of correlation with SES of parent and child would also be evidence of failures of equality of opportunity.

However, the situation is more complicated. Success in career is probably influenced by factors other than talent: for example, personal values, practical interests, personality qualities like perseverence, and cultural values. And these qualities are plainly influenced by the child's family and neighborhood environment. So if there is such a thing as a "culture of poverty" or a "culture of entrepreneurism", then the social fact of the child's immersion in this culture will be part of the explanation of the child's performance in adulthood -- whatever opportunities were available to the child. (French sociologist Didier Lapeyronnie makes a point along these lines about the segregation of immigrant communities that exists in French society today; post, post.) So this is a fact about family background that is causally relevant to eventual SES and independent of the opportunity structure of the society.

But another relevant fact is the sharply differentiated opportunities that exist for children and young adults from various social groups in many societies, including the United States. How is schooling provided to children across all income groups? What kind and quality of healthcare is available across income and race? To what extent are job opportunities made available to all individuals without regard to status, race, or income? How are urban people treated relative to suburban or rural people when it comes to the availability of important social opportunities? It is plain that there are substantial differences across many societies when it comes to questions like these.

Education is certainly one of the chief mechanisms of social mobility in any society; it involves providing the child and young adult with the tools necessary to translate personal qualities and talents into productive activity. So inequalities in access to education constitute a central barrier to social mobility. (See this earlier post for a discussion of some efforts to assess the impact of higher education on social mobility for disadvantaged people.)

And it seems all too clear that children have very unequal educational opportunities throughout the United States, from pre-school to university. These inequalities correlate with socially significant facts like family income, place of residence, and race; and they correlate in turn with the career paths and eventual SES of the young people who are placed in one or another of these educational settings. Race is a particularly prevalent form of structural inequalities of opportunity in the US; multiple studies have shown how slowly patterns of racial segregation are changing in the cities of the United States (post). And along with segregation comes limitation on opportunities associated with health, education, and employment.

So the findings mentioned above, documenting the relatively limited degree of social mobility that currently exists in the United States by international standards, are understandable when we consider the entrenched structures that exist in our country determining the opportunities available to children and young adults. Race, poverty, and geography conspire to create recurring patterns of low SES across generations of families in the United States. (See an earlier post on Douglas Massey's analysis of the mechanisms of race and inequality in the US.) And limited social mobility is the predictable result.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

California Police Peace Officer Standards, Training Crowd Management and Civil Disobedience Guidelines / CROWD MANAGEMENT AND CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE GUIDELINES: shared by

Void Network invites the friends and comrades to read, investigate, think and understand the methodologies and practices that USA and European Police uses to manipulate, passify and desolve the crowds of horizontal, anti-hierarchical and revolted communities in the streets and occupied squares of this world. The research platform Public Intelligence host (among many others) the 

California Police Peace Officer Standards and Training Crowd Management and Civil Disobedience Guidelines



  • 35 pages
  • March 2003


Penal Code Section 13514.5 requires the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training to establish guidelines and training for law enforcement’s response to crowd management and civil disobedience.
These guidelines contain information for law enforcement agencies to consider when addressing the broad range of issues related to crowd management and civil disobedience. The guidelines do not constitute a policy, nor are they intended to establish a standard for any agency. The Commission is sensitive to the needs for agencies to have individualized policies that reflect concern for local issues. The Commission intends these guidelines to be a resource for law enforcement executives that will provide maximum discretion and flexibility in the development of individual agency policies.

In the United States all people have the right of free speech and assembly guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Federal Constitution and California State Constitution. Law enforcement recognizes the right of free speech and actively protects people exercising that right.
The rights all people have to march, demonstrate, protest, rally, or perform other First Amendment activities comes with the responsibility to not abuse or violate the civil and property rights of others. The responsibility of law enforcement is to protect the lives and property of all people. Law enforcement should not be biased by the opinions being expressed nor by the race, gender, sexual orientation, physical disabilities, appearances, or affiliation of anyone exercising his/her lawful First Amendment rights. Law enforcement personnel must have the integrity to keep personal, political or religious views from affecting their actions.
When it becomes necessary to control the actions of a crowd that constitutes an unlawful assembly, the commitment and responsibility of law enforcement is to control lawfully, efficiently, and with minimal impact upon the community. A variety of techniques and tactics may be necessary to resolve a civil disobedience incident. Only that force which is objectively reasonable may be used to arrest violators and restore order.
All agencies should familiarize themselves with the terms, definitions, and guidelines set forth in this document. These are the generally accepted principles by which agencies respond to lawful and unlawful assemblies. The material in this document is designed to assist law enforcement executives in addressing the broad range of issues surrounding civil disobedience.

Guideline #9: Use of Force: Force Options
Agencies should develop use of force policies, procedures, and training for managing crowds and civil disobedience.
When dealing with crowds and civil disobedience situations, law enforcement must be a disciplined and well-organized control force. The decisions to use force and the force options that may be applied in response to these incidents range from law enforcement presence to deadly force. Peace officers need not use the least intrusive force option, but only that force which is objectively reasonable under the totality of the circumstances (Scott v. Henrich, 39 F. 3d 912, 9th Cir. 1994, and Forrester v. City of San Diego, 25 F. 3d 804 9th Cir. 1994). Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 109 S. Ct. 1865, 104 L. Ed. 2d 443 (1989). The reasonableness of the force used to affect a particular seizure is analyzed under the Fourth Amendment and determined by balancing the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual’s Fourth Amendment interests against the governmental interests at stake.
Prior to an event, agencies should continually review their use of force alternatives in response to potential actions by protesters. Training should reflect reasonable use of force alternatives in order that officers are prepared to consider the tactics/force options available. Chew v. Gates, 27 F. 3d 1432, 1443 (9th Cir. 1994).
* A Sampling of Use of Force Considerations:
  • Determine compliance or non-compliance of crowd
  • Physically moving non-compliant offenders
  • Anticipate possible actions of demonstrators
  • Identify criminal violations involved
  • Develop arrest protocol
  • Develop use of pain compliance protocol
  • Plan for disabled, elderly, and children demonstrators
  • Determine availability of personnel
  • Evaluate availability of other public safety resources
  • Include protection devices for involved personnel
  • Plan for the safety of bystanders
  • Evaluate mobility of suspects/protestors
  • Determine avenues of controlled departure
  • Anticipate potential for medical resources
  • Establish protocols for less lethal munitions
* A Sampling of Force Options:
  • Law enforcement presence
  • Verbalization
  • Firm grip
  • Compliance techniques
  • Control devices
  • Nonlethal chemical agents
  • Electrical control devices
  • Impact weapons/batons
  • Less lethal (i.e., sting balls, grenades, bean bags)
  • Deadly force

 you can read more Police and State methodologies here:


you can read more info from Public Intelligence here:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Cyclones of Struggle: From Occupation to Intifada" by the Moment of Insurrection

A beautiful storm has come, but not yet the beautiful destruction”. The cyclone of intifada continues to destroy the Egyptian state, “I am boycotting because I believe it is a circus,” said rebel-blogger Hossam el-Hamalawy, “You cannot have clean elections while the police force which has not been purged is in charge of securing the ballot boxes. You have to settle the battle in the streets, then you settle it in the ballot boxes. We have to win our occupation in Tahrir Square first.”
The street opens itself to the community-in-motion as a parallel space against the state from which the emergent counter-power reproduces new ways of thinking and acting.
The battle of Tahrir is diffused throughout society this last year. Escaping reification into the political apparatus of capture, it exists as a Popular Power in the Streets. Over the last week it has manifest as violent insurrection in the district surrounding Tahrir Square, the Muhammad Mahoud meidan, where I stayed months ago:
“The people in Muhammad Mahmoud are decidedly not revolutionaries, they are vandals,” a police captain insisted. When in Rome, do as the Vandals.
From the revolution to civil war- no longer revolutionaries but a new form of life escaping from the structures of civilization. “It’s a way of life. You don’t just become one. You aren’t converted. You have to be an Ultra from within,” said Ahmed, a Cairo native and Ultra member who only agreed to an interview if his real name and appearance were not revealed.  The Ultras are “anti-media,” according to Ahmed. He said they prefer to keep their identities secret.
‘Ultra’. Who the fuck are these guys. “The Ultras have stood at the forefront of recent clashes with security forces. In many cases, they were armed with rocks, petrol bombs and firecrackers.” A fraternal organization of mad bombers.
“The Ultras are here. I know that because they’re the only ones facing the CSF (police) with force while singing their hymns,” protester Mosa’ab Elshamy wrote on Twitter on the first day of last weeks clashes. It is part of the Ultras code to remain anonymous to non-members. Dressed in a uniform of skinny jeans, neck scarves and hooded sweatshirts pulled tight over their heads, the Ultras in Tahrir could go unnoticed.
They are here now. Stepping out from the blaze of their flares. Constitutive of the ongoing occupation, their camp is set apart by hastily sketched graffiti on the tents that proclaims their beliefs for those who know the code.
“A-C-A-B,” Ahmed said, reading aloud the red etchings on the outside of his tent. “All cops are bastards,” he explained. According to Ahmed, the abbreviation is a motto for Ultras clubs around the world.  Ultra clubs, and the rest of us.
According to the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer:
“Established in 2007, the ultras — modelled on Italy’s autonomous, often violent fan clubs – have since proven their metal in past confrontations with the Egyptian police, who charge that criminals and terrorists populate their ranks.

The ultras key role in the rebellion extends a tradition of soccer’s close association with politics in Egypt dating back to when the then British colonial power introduced the game to the North African country in the early 20th century. “
Out of the scene and into the streets! “Before the revolution the Ultras were confined to stadiums, so people didn’t know much about them,” occupier Elshamy said.
“After the revolution a lot of perspectives changed about them and they became really popular. They were described as those courageous guys. They stayed there in the square almost through 100 hours of fighting; It’s easy to notice them because of their use of Molotov cocktails, their extreme courage and recklessness, their chants. They became a common sight.”
Says an El Ahly ultra: “You don’t change things in Egypt talking about politics. We’re not political, the government knows that and has to deal with us,”
Rabab El-Mahdi calls this “clear class confrontations”. “Since the Ultras were created, they were always targeted by state security. They are seen as a mob or as hooligans,” she continues, “So they developed skills that none of the middle class was forced to develop. Plus they come from backgrounds where such skills are needed on daily basis just as survival mechanisms.”
She added that as long as Egypt’s security apparatus remained intact, violent confrontations would continue. “The skills they developed in dealing with police came in very handy and it comes in handy every time there is a direct confrontation,”
The ultras’ experience is also reflected in the setting up of survival services for the mass of protesters camped on the square in tents behind barricades and the introduction of a rotation of labour among them.
“There were designated rock hurlers, specialists in turning over and torching vehicles for defensive purposes and a machine like quartermaster crew delivering projectiles like clockwork on a cardboard platters.”
Ultras member Ahmed is careful to explain that he and his “brothers in blood” do not attack first. “An Ultra doesn’t attack anyone, We’re a watchdog for the truth. Any unfairness that we spot, within the state or anywhere, we have to stand up for what is right.”
“We don’t have any political direction. Whenever we go to a strike or a demonstration, we do it on an individual basis. We don’t announce it. We are just here as humans. On Saturday, initially we came individually. But then we found because we have similar beliefs we went straight to the front line and there were our brothers to the left and right. The personality of an Ultra places you at the front line because you are defending a cause. There is nothing easy in life, we have to suffer and sacrifice until we achieve.”
While ultras’ Power-Knowledge helped substantially in articulating and holding the front line, the front line was made of many other youths who carried on the fight. Some were young Islamists, refusing to obey their official party line. But the majority of front line fighters came from the substantial population of young, socially excluded men from Cairo’s peripheral ‘ashwa’i ["informal"] neighbourhoods. They are sometimes called the wilad sis.
The wilad sis are young working class men who might be described as precarious workers, most are unemployed, underemployed, unskilled and semi-skilled, doing occasional jobs that change every day (though on most days, there is no “work”).  Others refuse work and subsist upon the black market. They are often marked by a particular dress code and hairstyle that often involves copious quantities of gel (the word sis alludes to the attention they often pay to their appearance).
Earlier this year I traveled through Tunisia, Cairo and in Alexandria I met, over much hash, with a group of young insurgents who identified themselves as ‘Franco Arabia’s’. They celebrated a pan- Mediterranean, as expressed in a unique style of hip-hop and aggressive migration to Italy, a proclivity towards anarchism, queer liberation and are combatively against patriarchy
Proudly they told me it was their call for a day of action against the police- who had killed one of their comrades, which helped instigate the insurrection. The day of action was organized for Jan 25th- the national day of police, and after its announcement on face book, Tunisia exploded and the antagonisms in Alexandria and across Egypt did as well, until finally on that day, the demonstration led millions onto the streets which they violently held for weeks.
From the various field reports that I salvaged these quotes from, there is recognition of the middle class activists (as well as Islamist youths), most who expressed the understanding that without the barricades and violent resistance they would not have been able to protest. But no interviews for this montage. I will though, share this observation from Lucie Ryzova, an engaged-blogger during this last battle:
“It is in Abdeen, the streets east of Tahrir Square between Muhammad Mahmoud Street and Meidan Bab al-Luq, leading to the ministry of interior, where a battle was waged during the past week.
And a battle it was. People went there knowing what they were getting into. They went there to fight. Police threw teargas canisters and used shotguns (occasionally also live ammunition); against them was a line of young men mostly throwing stones, but also Molotov cocktails and small homemade bombs.
It was a “battle for the dakhiliyya ['the Ministry of Interior']“, but that does not mean that any of the young men facing the police necessarily wanted or intended to take over the ministry’s building. It was a symbolic battle – or more precisely, a frighteningly real and bloody fight over a symbolic location; the fight itself was the message.
The khatt al-nar ["firing line"] belonged to particular people who went there to beat and get beaten. Throughout the first week of the Second Revolution, Tahrir Square and the battlezone to its east each had its own demographic.
Each was a different crowd, but they can only be understood as a symbiosis – a specific social alliance – as both constructed and supported each other, and they increasingly overlapped. The square, the “safe” zone, contained a truly socially mixed crowd. People from all walks of life came there, often several times a day, in support of those who decided to camp out, to help “hold” the square and support its cause.
One saw a social mix rarely seen in Egypt (though it was famously present in the First Revolution): middle-class men and women, some of them activists but most of them not; young and old, in suits, kefiyehs and jeans, alongside the galabiyas and long beards of the salafis; bareheaded women as well as munaqqabat (fully veiled women).
On the front line, by contrast (and naturally so given the nature of the battle), the demographic was predominantly (though not exclusively) young male and socially marginal.
But the frontline and the Meidan are also part of one whole. The frontline’s position is to protect the Meidan, even if it also developed into a fight for its own sake. Without the on-the-ground crowd of ultras and the wilad sis prepared to stop police violence with their own bodies, and most importantly, to hit back, the largely middle-class opposition could not have held the Meidan for long.”
Was this violent defence not also the case for Occupy Vancouver? As made clear by Zig-Zag, it was the fear of the chaos brought forth in the 2011 riots that forced the city to keep their pigs on a leash. Anyone who was present at both riot and occupation know the difference was not only the communication of destruction- but also the communication of Counter Power.
The insurrections last year that has created this global intifada, was the becoming of a new solidarity between the pro-revolutionary’s and the rioting hoodlums. Such commonality was developed over years of relationships initiated by a militant underground group in Tunisia called Takriz, (its closest translations is, ‘breaking my balls’ or ‘bollocks to that’)
Realizing the advantage in working with Ultras as opposed to the same-old leftist shit- over several seasons they developed a Web forum for Ultras from different teams, hosted by Takriz. This allowed for years of mutual agitation, so that come the rupture is was a lightning transition from riot to insurrection
The ultras were also on Egypt’s streets at first crack. On January 24, the day before thousands planned to protest the Mubarak regime, the Ultra Facebook pages sent out a message saying, “We’re not political, we’re not part of this as an organization—you as individuals are free to do whatever you want (…) This is what we’ve been preparing for.”
There were also e-mails with attachments describing how to deal with the military—”an Ultra thing from Tunisia,” remembers Kotb Hassaneen, an Alexandrian insurgent. Some of the tactics they shared, says Foetus, the codename for a member of Takriz,  “have roots in long-standing contacts with anarchist and international protest groups like Indymedia, the Antifascist Network, and CrimethInc. For example, the technique called “Black Bloc”—having protesters wear black clothing en masse for impact and anonymity, with padding and protection to reduce injuries—dates back to 1980 in Germany.”
Here, the potentiality of a becoming-together of the spirit of the Riot and the antagonisms of the Occupation remain an open chance for us- in this Global Intifada.
The cyclones of struggle blast this world apart. Although there are periods that the state of siege regains the social peace- any moment that will explode, and again the streets will fill with fire. In this epoch we cannot allow the memory of the dead to be stolen. We stand as the Mothers of the martyrs who hold vigil in the midst of street battles.
Over the last year the insurrection has not ceased in Egypt or Tunisia, overcoming the billions of dollars empire spends (Canada $20 million) on counter-insurgency- in the form on elections and ‘democratic-institution building’. This apparatus of capture is the same network of regulation we battle here.  The institutionalization of crisis is best dealt with by the methods deployed throughout the ‘Arab spring’- that is, the absolute destruction of institutions and the armed exodus from the reifying radiation left in their wake. In Tunisia and Egypt I was witness to the ‘fired’ shells of bureaucratic control. The revolted will not trade in their looted weapons (93 cop shops and over 300 military barracks sacked in Egypt alone) for the opportunity to vote. And they have not abandoned the struggle against imperial democracy.
Almost everyone I met over there, I asked, ‘what will you do when the state steals your revolution?’ The unanimous response was, ‘We will just have another one’! Last month in Sidi Bouzid, the town from where the uprising in Tunisia began, the multitude set fire to the headquarters of the winning political party, the day after the election. Such will the beautiful destruction be wrought.


Links to my travel writing & chronology of insurrections in Tunisia and Egypt:

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Void Network express solidarity to the struggle of the people of Palestine for Freedom and Self-Determination. We introduce the statement of the activist's group "Architects & Planners for Justice in Palestine (APJP)

Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine (APJP) is an independent international pressure group of design professionals. We are seeking international support for an ethical and just practice for our professions in Palestine and the Occupied Territories. We oppose the building of such projects as the illegal settlements, check points, settler–only highways and above all the Separation Wall. Palestinian land has become so fragmented that a viable Palestinian State has been rendered impossible. The map of Palestine, for the indigenous Palestinians, has shrunk from being 97% of the land in 1917 to 44% in 1947(see maps below) Today only 13% of the former Palestinian lands are being recognised by Israeli unilateral ‘convergence’ policies, and that small part is being further divided by planning and architectural devices and the matrix of control.
Since 1947 Israeli kibbutzim, towns and cities have been built over the ruins of Palestinian, villages, houses and heritage that were wiped from the map by a form of architectural erasure. Israeli architects and planners, knowingly or not, have become a part of this situation. Israeli settlements built after the 1967 War, considered illegal under international law, could not have been realized without their help. Professional ethics, long enshrined in architectural and planning codes, demand that we confront these unwelcome truths and not remain silent or complicit. It is with this in mind that we are supporting particular campaigns that challenge this unprofessional conduct.
1. Currently, on the slopes of east Jerusalem, in the village of Silwan some eighty-eight Palestinian homes are under threat of demolition. This is part of a master planned development on annexed land for the benefit of Israeli citizens, which would consolidate the presence of illegal settlers to the exclusion of the current Palestinian inhabitants. The clearance is made under the pretext of gaining a large green space.
2. A further campaign includes what is called Israel’s E1 Plan. This master plan aims for the expansion of the largest illegal Israeli settlement, Ma’ale Adumim, linking it with the Jerusalem metropolitan area. This plan would dissect the northern and southern areas of the West Bank, destroying the possibility of contiguity for a future Palestinian state.
APJP calls on Israeli and international architects, planners and those in the construction industry to express their concern in each and every instance of unjust action in annexing Palestinian land, and the projects to be built on them. The future security and justice, in both Israel and Palestine, are at stake.

more info:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Minimum Definition of Intelligence (Theses on the Construction of One’s Own Self-theory) by For Ourselves

This booklet is for people who are dissatisfied with their lives. If you are happy with your present existence, we have no argument with you. However, if you are tired of waiting for your life to change...
Tired of waiting for authentic community, love and adventure...
Tired of waiting for the end of money and forced work...
Tired of looking for new pastimes to pass the time...
Tired of waiting for a lush, rich existence... Tired of waiting for a situation in which you can realise all your desires...
Tired of waiting for the end of all authorities, alienations, ideologies and moralities...
...then we think you’ll find what follows to be quite handy.


One of the great secrets of our miserable yet potentially marvellous time is that thinking can be a pleasure. This is a manual for constructing your own self-theory. Constructing your self-theory is a revelutionary pleasure, the pleasure of constructing your self-theory of revolution.
Building your self-theory is a destructive/constructive pleasure, because you are building a theory-of-practice for the destructive/constructive transformation of this society.
Self-theory is a theory of adventure. It is as erotic and humorous as an authentic revolution.
The alienation felt as a result of having had your thinking done for you by the ideologies of our day, can lead to the search for the pleasurable negation of that alienation: thinking for yourself. It is the pleasure of making your mind your own.
Self-theory is the body of critical thought you construct for your own use. You construct it and use it when you make an analysis of why your life is the way it is, why the world is the way it is. (And ‘thinking’ and ‘feeling’ are inseparable, since thought comes from subjective, emotive experience.) You build your self-theory when you develop a theory of practice — a theory of how to get what you desire for your life.
Theory will be either a practical theory — a theory of revolutionary practice — or it will be nothing... nothing but an aquarium of ideas, a contemplative interpretation of the world. The realm of ideals is the eternal waiting-room of unrealised desire.
Those who assume (usually unconsciously) the impossibility of realising their life’s desires, and of thus fighting for themselves, usually end up fighting for an ideal or cause instead (i.e., the illusion of selfactivity or self-practice). Those who know that this is the acceptance of alienation will now know that all ideals and causes are ideologies.


Whenever a system of ideas is structured with an abstraction at the centre — assigning a role or duties to you for its sake — this system is an ideology. An ideology is a system of false consciousness in which you no longer function as the subject in your relation to the world.
The various forms of ideology are all structured around different abstractions, yet they all serve the interests of a dominant (or aspiring dominant) class by giving you a sense of purpose in your sacrifice, suffering and submission.
Religious ideology is the oldest example, the fantastic projection called ‘God’ is the Supreme Subject of the cosmos, acting on every human being as ‘His’ subject.
In the ‘scientific’ and ‘democratic’ ideologies of bourgeois enterprise, capital investment is the ‘productive’ subject directing world history — the ‘invisible hand’ guiding human development. The bourgeoisie had to attack and weaken the power that religious ideology once held. It exposed the mystification of the religious world in its technological investigation, expanding the realm of things and methods out of which it could make a profit.
The various brands of Leninism are ‘revolutionary’ ideologies in which their Party is the rightful subject to dictate world history, by leading its object — the proletariat — to the goal of replacing the bourgeois apparatus with a Leninist one.
The many other forms of the dominant ideologies can be seen daily. The rise of the new religiomsyticisms serve the dominant structure of social relations in a round about way. They provide a neat form in which the emptiness of daily life may be obscured, and like drugs, make it easier to live with. Volunteerism (shoulder to the wheel) and determinism (it’ll all work out) prevent us from recognising our real place in the functioning of the world. In avant-garde ideology, novelty in (and of) itself is what’s important. In survivalism, subjectivity is preempted by fear through the invocation of the image of an impending world catastrophe.
In accepting ideologies we accept an inversion of subject and object; things take on a human power and will, while human beings have their place as things. Ideology is upside-down theory. We further accept the separation between the narrow reality of our daily life, and the image of a world totality that’s out of our grasp. Ideology offers us only a voyeur’s relationship with the totality.
In this separation, and this acceptance of sacrifice for the cause, every ideology serves to protect the dominant social order. Authorities whose power depends on separation must deny us our subjectivity in order to survive themselves. Such denial comes in the form of demanding sacrifices for ‘the common good’, ‘the national interest’, ‘the war effort’, ‘the revolution’....


We get rid of the blinders of ideology by constantly asking ourselves... How do I feel?
Am I enjoying myself?
How’s my life?
Am I getting what I want?
Why not?
What’s keeping me from getting what I want?
This is having consciousnessof the commonplace, awareness of one’s everyday routine. That Everyday Life — real life — exists, is a public secret that gets less secret every day, as the poverty of daily life gets more and more visible.


The construction of self-theory is based on thinking for yourself, being fully conscious of desires and their validity. It is the construction of radical subjectivity.