Posts Tagged ‘Coming Insurrection’

DiY Revolution

Friday, March 4th, 2011

Adorned with all the signs of insecurity.

If one did want to instigate a mass uprising against an authoritarian regime, how would one go about doing so? What steps are involved? Sure, one could look at various passages in Marx to grasp the economic motivators of social unrest – poverty, disparity, the mechanics of capital as a system of alienation and exploitation – but Marx, rather infamously, won’t teach you much concerning what to do about it.

Ditto for Che Guevara — unfortunately in the best tradition of the (negative) dialectic, his Diaries only tell you what one should not do, which is start guerilla war in a foreign country where the locals aren’t particularly interested in having you there.

Reading up on the French revolution is as engaging as it is instructive (and do watch Danton), though the lessons to be drawn from 1789 through Napoleon, and the American and English Revolutions respectively, is that any major upheaval that destabilizes the pillars of a society – including its engines of economic trade and fabric of social reciprocity – has resulted in generations of bloodsheed, counterrevolution, military dictatorship, soft reinstatement of previous systems of exploitation and privilege, organised criminality masquerading as revolutionary zeal, destructive and nihilist infighting and outright civil – if not Total – war.

Indeed, it remains entirely unclear whether humanity is capable of undertaking massive socioeconomic change without such violence and its repercussions (and this includes the “hidden” violence of globalized capital), which brings one directly to the 20th century and the various attempts to commandeer such violence through a revolutionary vanguard. Yet even the good intentions and creative energies of the various antifascist socialist revolutions gave in to an overwhelming paranoia — that by beheading the despot king, a vacuum had been ripped open in the metaphysical fabric of the cultural imaginary that simply had to be filled. And so the abyss was given over to the singularity of the absolute once again, feeding the ravenous cult of the despot, that destructive violence of supplementarity – the addition necessary for the whole to become whole – rendered flesh. Even radical communism could not escape the logic of the sacrificial god (or as some would have it, rather did such a system only intensify the phallogocentrism of the golden bough). As each State became a surveillance State with its gulag archipelagos, its internal purges  met or exceeded – in its modern, industrial organisation of death and repression – whatever monarchical-autocracy that preceded it.

And we have not yet even touched upon the echo chamber of violence that has seemingly overtaken postcolonial struggles and turned them inside out. Nearly each postcolonial revolution of the mid-20th century has turned into some caricature of its former self as it perpetuates the cycle of violence that brought it into power, rather than dealing with the more mundane task of organising some kind of peaceful and participatory State. Violence is addictive, a high, as any member of organised (or unorganised) crime will tell you: violence is hardwired into the human, and boy, do we love it, in all its most depraved and sadistic forms. Which brings us to the continent of Africa and the Middle East, replete with its petty dictators – many armed with nuclear weapons, of course – that preside over endless parades, publicly stroking their egos, playing out a kind of patriarchal onanism often fetishized with self-stitched uniforms, sunglasses, dorky hats and numerous long and ridiculous titles such as Leader of the Grand Revolution of Such-and-Such-Day, Hero Of Our Fallen Martyrs The SteelWorkers of Some Village, etc., etc., etc..

None of which helps much when in our contemporary moment the entire populace living under the State terrorism of such regimes of absolute violence – cartoon leaders are always the most dangerous – suddenly tips over into a state of all-out insurrection. No-holds-barred, we will die for this style, absolute overthrowing of seemingly absolute power — this is what is happening and, despite all the revolutionary history behind us, new and old, the story is the same and yet every time the outcome is utterly unknown: we can know absolutely nothing about the possible outcome of any of the particular (yet connected) forces at work. Military dictatorships? More than possible. Slow transitions of existing institutions to democratic models? Possible too. Mass slaughter and civil war? Already happening.

What is intriguing is possibly where some of the current dis/organisation comes from. Move over Marx, and meet Gene Sharp. Here’s DiY Revolution in eight (easy?) steps:

  • Develop a strategy for winning freedom and a vision of the society you want
  • Overcome fear by small acts of resistance
  • Use colours and symbols to demonstrate unity of resistance
  • Learn from historical examples of the successes of non-violent movements
  • Use non-violent “weapons”
  • Identify the dictatorship’s pillars of support and develop a strategy for undermining each
  • Use oppressive or brutal acts by the regime as a recruiting tool for your movement
  • Isolate or remove from the movement people who use or advocate violence

the terrible community of financial capitalism

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

the terrible community of financial capital (spiral formation)

IV. 2

As post-authoritarian formations, the corporations of the “new economy” constitute terrible communities in the fullest sense.  And no one should see any contradiction in the similarity between capitalism’s avant-gardes and the avant-gardes of its opposition: they are both prisoners of the same economic principle, the same need for efficiency and organization, even if they set themselves up on different terrain.  They in fact serve the same modalities of the circulation of power, and in that sense they are politically quite near one another. Tiqqun, Theses on the Terrible Community

In Tiqqun’s Theses on the Terrible Community [translation / French original], what is the terrible community? The community is an illusive circulation of isolated dividuals — subjects struck through with the schizophrenia of capital. Sacrifice holds it together, to an ideology or cause, be it for profit or for the people, and every terrible community revolves around a Leader. The terrible community can take many forms: a corporation is a terrible community, as is any workforce. In particular, Tiqqun seems to have in mind the activist community, or any anarchist squat, insofar as it projects itself as outside to, or at least resisting against, what Tiqqun calls democratic biopower. Yet the activist community just like the business community are both terrible communities, beholden to rituals of sacrifice, isolated existences, vertical hierarchies, and even worse, self-policing and self-censorship. I would like to ask Tiqqun (if they can be addressed) as to what they think of the branding of communities – the Muslim community, the gay community, etc. – in terms of their alleged coherency, unity and collective responsibility within the mediasphere of Spectacle.

Tiqqun flattens all communities to the relations of their form.


Contesting Civil War: Tiqqun & Agamben

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Semiotext(e) have recently published the text Introduction to Civil War by the pseudonymous authorial collective Tiqqun. The text is number 4 of the Intervention series which has set for its mission the publication of recent works in political philosophy and political economy, including Christian Marazzi’s The Violence of Financial Capitalism (a crucial analysis of the recession) and The Invisible Committee’s manifesto of contemporary insurgency, The Coming Insurrection [download here].

These texts should not be taken lightly – or rather, these texts weigh heavily on the paranoia of the French state. In France, the alleged author(s) of The Coming Insurrection were violently arrested under “preemptive” measures that identified them as “pre-terrorists”. What is striking – and frightening – is that the Tarnac 9 by all accounts were not a revolutionary cell, but a small alternative commune living off the grid. Apparently such existence, outside of a few norms, is enough to invite the living nightmare of State hostility. Whether Julien Coupat wrote The Coming Insurrection is irrelevant. The text resonates with the zeitgeist that exploded in the banlieu riots of 2005. It is rightly anonymous as its claims are that of a world. Tiqqun’s Introduction to Civil War suggests the experience of the Tarnac 9:

Spectacle’s genius is to have acquired a monopoly over qualifications, over the act of naming. With this in hand, it can then smuggle in its metaphysics and pass of the products of its fraudulent interpretations as facts. Some act of social war gets called a “terrorist act,” while a major intervention by NATO, initiated through the most arbitrary process, is deemed a “peacekeeping operation.” Mass poisonings are described as epidemics, while the “High Security Wing” is the technical term used in our democracies’ prisons for the legal practice of torture. Tiqqun is, to the contrary, the action that restores to each fact its how, of holding this how to be the only real there is. (Civil War §82: 189).


Cities of Rhythm & Revolution

Monday, March 8th, 2010

Voilà.! Some 5 years in the making, Circulation & the City.

With appropriate fanfare & deep bows, Will Straw & Alexandra Boutro’s edited volume entitled Circulation and the City: Essays on Urban Culture (McGill Queen’s UP, 2010) now graces the shelves. This book has been quite a few years in the works. The earliest drafts I have of work for the volume date back to 2005, and by the time we went to press, the final chapter I submitted on Henri Lefebre, rhythm, and revolution in the city had been transformed entirely from the words originally writ on rave culture and rhythm (funny thing: the new article I am finishing for Dancecult picks up on these earlier themes  – sometimes work must encounter different sets of theoretical concepts, and years of reflection, for the excavation of the intellect to yield its bounty). The book forms the third in a trilogy of publications from the Culture of Cities Project, a multi-university research endeavour that sought to unearth “the mix of universal and local influences in the everyday life of cities,” with research concentrated in Toronto, Berlin, Dublin and Montréal, and with researchers across Canada and the Continent. So, with the intent of lurking y’all into picking this up (or perhaps unwittingly scaring you off), I offer the introduction to my chapter “Cities of Rhythm & Revolution.”


archiving disappearance (addendum)

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009
find someone to hold hands with: remember this

find someone to hold hands with: remember this

Not posting here registers a kind of disappearance. Where have I gone? Am I working? What constitutes labour when it is non-present? Is a life unrecorded in the 21C a life lived? Does not the precariat, the precarious immaterial class, take as much time archiving as doing? What precisely is the measure of this distance between doing and recording, acting and archiving? A desire to be done with it, enough with it, competes against the same urge to document. We are all tourists now: tourists, becoming a tourist, was the first manifestation of pathological levels of documentation. All must be photographed, recorded; the lived experience is better — oh, but isn’t it — in the re-telling than the actuality. The banality of “postmodern” readings (and this remains the ugly legacy of postmodernism) celebrated the retelling over the actuality. What is the actuality? So easy to diss this concept of lived experience – but in the critical deconstruction of presence, what the imitators forgot was the actuality or lived experience of thinking without a master. Actuality is living without a master. Writing is living too — but without a master. The only master being the master to take apart within the self (yes: this be alterity, otherness). Postmodernism found the easy-way out by generating endless critique of the lived plenitude instead of seeking its own experience thereof. Lived experience as the repetition of plenitude and suffering is the basis of anarchic living: organisation without mastery. And this concept has much more to do with the deconstruction of presence than the mere dialectical reversal of retelling over doing.


music as an organisational principle: resonance

Thursday, August 20th, 2009
musikal resistance (2000) / dj.glim

musikal resistance (2000) / dj.glim

Revolutionary movements do not spread by contamination but by resonance. Something that is constituted here resonates with the shock wave emitted by something constituted over there. A body that resonates does so according to its own mode. An insurrection is not like a plague or a forest fire – a linear process which spreads from place to place after an initial spark. It rather takes the shape of a music, whose focal points, though dispersed in time and space, succeed in imposing the rhythm of their own vibrations, always taking on more density. To the point that any return to normal is no longer desirable or even imaginable. (The Coming Insurrection 13)

As of 2009, the suspected authors of this lively and at times satirically brilliant text – in the best tradition of insurrectionist French theory, a nod to Voltaire – are still facing charges, some released from prison, others being held & questioned. Any following critical comments are critical only insofar as they applaud the force of this text.

Yet – and there is a yet with this text – something of the darkly humorous & inventive tone is lost by the time the text announces, in a rather didactic fashion, its prescriptions for action as a way of closure. These prescriptives are a tad too prescriptive for me. And I think in this passage all of what invigorates me – yet frustrates me – can be heard.