The Coming Insurrection

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May 30 2009 20:45
The Coming Insurrection

The words below comprise a final section of "The Coming Insurrection", an insurrectionary communist treatise published in France in 2007 by writers from the journal Tiqqun and affiliates of Comité Invisible. This English translation is courtesy of the Inoperative Committee.

I hope others find these words useful, but even moreso, I hope they spark a discussion on these forums on how we should be organizing to confront what already exists while prefiguring the world to come.

The full text can be found at: http://tarnac9.wordpress.com/texts/the-coming-insurrection/ admin - or here: http://libcom.org/library/coming-insurrection-invisible-committee

FIND EACH OTHER

Attach yourself to what you feel to be true.

Begin there.

An encounter, a discovery, a vast wave of strikes, an earthquake: every event produces truth by changing our way of being in the world. Conversely, any observation that leaves us indifferent, doesn’t affect us, doesn’t commit us to anything, no longer deserves the name truth. There’s a truth beneath every gesture, every practice, every relationship, and every situation. We usually just avoid it, manage it, which produces the madness of so many in our era. In reality, everything involves everything else. The feeling that one is living a lie is still a truth. It is a matter of not letting it go, of starting from there. A truth isn’t a view on the world but what binds us to it in an irreducible way. A truth isn’t something we hold but something that carries us. It makes and unmakes me, constitutes and undoes me as an individual; it distances me from many and brings me closer to those who also experience it. An isolated being who holds fast to a truth will inevitably meet others like her. In fact, every insurrectional process starts from a truth that we refuse to give up. During the 1980s in Hamburg, a few inhabitants of a squatted house decided that from then on they would only be evicted over their dead bodies. A neighborhood was besieged by tanks and helicopters, with days of street battles, huge demonstrations – and a mayor who, finally, capitulated. In 1940, Georges Guingouin, the “first French resistance fighter,” started with nothing other than the certainty of his refusal of the Nazi occupation. At that time, to the Communist Party, he was nothing but a “madman living in the woods,” until there were 20,000 madmen living in the woods, and Limoges was liberated.

Don’t back away from what is political in friendship

We’ve been given a neutral idea of friendship, understood as a pure affection with no consequences. But all affinity is affinity within a common truth. Every encounter is an encounter within a common affirmation, even the affirmation of destruction. No bonds are innocent in an age when holding onto something and refusing to let go usually leads to unemployment, where you have to lie to work, and you have to keep on working in order to continue lying. People who swear by quantum physics and pursue its consequences in all domains are no less bound politically than comrades fighting against a multinational agribusiness. They will all be led, sooner or later, to defection and to combat.

The pioneers of the workers’ movement were able to find each other in the workshop, then in the factory. They had the strike to show their numbers and unmask the scabs. They had the wage relation, pitting the party of capital against the party of labor, on which they could draw the lines of solidarity and of battle on a global scale. We have the whole of social space in which to find each other. We have everyday insubordination for showing our numbers and unmasking cowards. We have our hostility to this civilization for drawing lines of solidarity and of battle on a global scale.

Expect nothing from organizations.

Beware of all existing social milieus,

and above all, don’t become one.

It’s not uncommon, in the course of a significant breaking of the social bond, to cross paths with organizations – political, labor, humanitarian, community associations, etc. Among their members, one may even find individuals who are sincere – if a little desperate – who are enthusiastic – if a little conniving. Organizations are attractive due to their apparent consistency – they have a history, a head office, a name, resources, a leader, a strategy and a discourse. They are nonetheless empty structures, which, in spite of their grand origins, can never be filled. In all their affairs, at every level, these organizations are concerned above all with their own survival as organizations, and little else. Their repeated betrayals have often alienated the commitment of their own rank and file. And this is why you can, on occasion, run into worthy beings within them. But the promise of the encounter can only be realized outside the organization and, unavoidably, at odds with it.

Far more dreadful are social milieus, with their supple texture, their gossip, and their informal hierarchies. Flee all milieus. Each and every milieu is orientated towards the neutralization of some truth. Literary circles exist to smother the clarity of writing. Anarchist milieus to blunt the directness of direct action. Scientific milieus to withhold the implications of their research from the majority of people today. Sport milieus to contain in their gyms the various forms of life they should create. Particularly to be avoided are the cultural and activist circles. They are the old people’s homes where all revolutionary desires traditionally go to die. The task of cultural circles is to spot nascent intensities and to explain away the sense of whatever it is you’re doing, while the task of activist circles is to sap your energy for doing it. Activist milieus spread their diffuse web throughout the French territory, and are encountered on the path of every revolutionary development. They offer nothing but the story of their many defeats and the bitterness these have produced. Their exhaustion has made them incapable of seizing the possibilities of the present. Besides, to nurture their wretched passivity they talk far too much and this makes them unreliable when it comes to the police. Just as it’s useless to expect anything from them, it’s stupid to be disappointed by their sclerosis. It’s best to just abandon this dead weight.

All milieus are counter-revolutionary because they are only concerned with the preservation of their sad comfort.

Form communes

Communes come into being when people find each other, get on with each other, and decide on a common path. The commune is perhaps what gets decided at the very moment when we would normally part ways. It’s the joy of an encounter that survives its expected end. It’s what makes us say “we,” and makes that an event. What’s strange isn’t that people who are attuned to each other form communes, but that they remain separated. Why shouldn’t communes proliferate everywhere? In every factory, every street, every village, every school. At long last, the reign of the base committees! Communes that accept being what they are, where they are. And if possible, a multiplicity of communes that will displace the institutions of society: family, school, union, sports club, etc. Communes that aren’t afraid, beyond their specifically political activities, to organize themselves for the material and moral survival of each of their members and of all those around them who remain adrift. Communes that would not define themselves – as collectives tend to do – by what’s inside and what’s outside them, but by the density of the ties at their core. Not by their membership, but by the spirit that animates them.

A commune forms every time a few people, freed of their individual straitjackets, decide to rely only on themselves and measure their strength against reality. Every wildcat strike is a commune; every building occupied collectively and on a clear basis is a commune, the action committees of 1968 were communes, as were the slave maroons in the United States, or Radio Alice in Bologna in 1977. Every commune seeks to be its own base. It seeks to dissolve the question of needs. It seeks to break all economic dependency and all political subjugation; it degenerates into a milieu the moment it loses contact with the truths on which it is founded. There are all kinds of communes that wait neither for the numbers nor the means to get organized, and even less for the “right moment” – which never arrives.

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May 31 2009 20:40

GET ORGANIZED

Get organized in order to no longer have to work

We know that individuals are possessed of so little life that they have to earn a living, to sell their time in exchange for a modicum of social existence. Personal time for social existence: such is work, such is the market. From the outset, the time of the commune eludes work, it doesn’t function according to that scheme – it prefers others. Groups of Argentine piqueteros collectively extort a sort of local welfare conditioned by a few hours of work; they don’t clock their hours, they put their benefits in common and acquire clothing workshops, a bakery, putting in place the gardens that they need.

The commune needs money, but not because we need to earn a living. All communes have their black markets. There are plenty of hustles. Aside from welfare, there are various benefits, disability money, accumulated student aid, subsidies drawn off fictitious childbirths, all kinds of trafficking, and so many other means that arise with every mutation of control. It’s not for us to defend them, or to install ourselves in these temporary shelters or to preserve them as a privilege for those in the know. The important thing is to cultivate and spread this necessary disposition towards fraud, and to share its innovations. For communes, the question of work is only posed in relation to other already existing incomes. And we shouldn’t forget all the useful knowledge that can be acquired through certain trades, professions and well-positioned jobs.

The exigency of the commune is to free up the most time for the most people. And we’re not just talking about the number of hours free of any wage-labor exploitation. Liberated time doesn’t mean a vacation. Vacant time, dead time, the time of emptiness and the fear of emptiness – this is the time of work. There will be no more time to fill, but a liberation of energy that no “time” contains; lines that take shape, that accentuate each other, that we can follow at our leisure, to their ends, until we see them cross with others.

Plunder, cultivate, fabricate

Some former MetalEurop employees become bank robbers rather prison guards. Some EDF employees show friends and family how to rig the electricity meters. Commodities that “fell off the back of a truck” are sold left and right. A world that so openly proclaims its cynicism can’t expect much loyalty from proletarians.

On the one hand, a commune can’t bank on the “welfare state” being around forever, and on the other, it can’t count on living for long off shoplifting, nighttime dumpster diving at supermarkets or in the warehouses of the industrial zones, misdirecting government subsidies, ripping off insurance companies and other frauds, in a word: plunder. So it has to consider how to continually increase the level and scope of its self-organization. Nothing would be more logical than using the lathes, milling machines, and photocopiers sold at a discount after a factory closure to support a conspiracy against commodity society.

The feeling of imminent collapse is everywhere so strong these days that it would be hard to enumerate all of the current experiments in matters of construction, energy, materials, illegality or agriculture. There’s a whole set of skills and techniques just waiting to be plundered and ripped from their humanistic, street-culture, or eco-friendly trappings. Yet this group of experiments is but one part of all of the intuitions, the know-how, and the ingenuity found in slums that will have to be deployed if we intend to repopulate the metropolitan desert and ensure the viability of an insurrection beyond its first stages.

How will we communicate and move about during a total interruption of the flows? How will we restore food production in rural areas to the point where they can once again support the population density that they had sixty years ago? How will we transform concrete spaces into urban vegetable gardens, as Cuba has done in order to withstand both the American embargo and the liquidation of the USSR?

Training and learning

What are we left with, having used up most of the leisure authorized by market democracy? What was it that made us go jogging on a Sunday morning? What keeps all these karate fanatics, these DIY, fishing, or mycology freaks going? What, if not the need to fill up some totally idle time, to reconstitute their labor power or “health capital”? Most recreational activities could easily be stripped of their absurdity and become something else. Boxing has not always been limited to the staging of spectacular matches. At the beginning of the 20th century, as China was carved up by hordes of colonists and starved by long droughts, hundreds of thousands of its poor peasants organized themselves into countless open-air boxing clubs, in order to take back what the colonists and the rich had taken from them. This was the Boxer Rebellion. It’s never too early to learn and practice what less pacified, less predictable times might require of us. Our dependence on the metropolis – on its medicine, its agriculture, its police – is so great at present that we can’t attack it without putting ourselves in danger. An unspoken awareness of this vulnerability accounts for the spontaneous self-limitation of today’s social movements, and explains our fear of crises and our desire for “security.” It’s for this reason that strikes have usually traded the prospect of revolution for a return to normalcy. Escaping this fate calls for a long and consistent process of apprenticeship, and for multiple, massive experiments. It’s a question of knowing how to fight, to pick locks, to set broken bones and treat sicknesses; how to build a pirate radio transmitter; how to set up street kitchens; how to aim straight; how to gather together scattered knowledge and set up wartime agronomics; understand plankton biology; soil composition; study the way plants interact; get to know possible uses for and connections with our immediate environment as well as the limits we can’t go beyond without exhausting it. We must start today, in preparation for the days when we’ll need more than just a symbolic portion of our nourishment and care.

Create territories. Multiply zones of opacity

More and more reformists today agree that with “the approach of peak oil,” and in order to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” we will need to “relocalize the economy,” encourage regional supply lines, small distribution circuits, renounce easy access to imports from faraway, etc. What they forget is that what characterizes everything that’s done in a local economy is that it’s done under the table, in an “informal” way; that this simple ecological measure of relocalizing the economy implies nothing less than total freedom from state control. Or else total submission to it.

Today’s territory is the product of many centuries of police operations. People have been pushed out of their fields, then their streets, then their neighborhoods, and finally from the hallways of their buildings, in the demented hope of containing all life between the four sweating walls of privacy. The territorial question isn’t the same for us as it is for the state. For us it’s not about possessing territory. Rather, it’s a matter of increasing the density of the communes, of circulation, and of solidarities to the point that the territory becomes unreadable, opaque to all authority. We don’t want to occupy the territory, we want to be the territory.

Every practice brings a territory into existence – a dealing territory, or a hunting territory; a territory of child’s play, of lovers, of a riot; a territory of farmers, ornithologists, or flaneurs. The rule is simple: the more territories there are superimposed on a given zone, the more circulation there is between them, the harder it will be for power to get a handle on them. Bistros, print shops, sports facilities, wastelands, second-hand book stalls, building rooftops, improvised street markets, kebab shops and garages can all easily be used for purposes other than their official ones if enough complicities come together in them. Local self-organization superimposes its own geography over the state cartography, scrambling and blurring it: it produces its own secession.

Travel. Open our own lines of communication.

The principle of communes is not to counter the metropolis and its mobility with local slowness and rootedness. The expansive movement of commune formation should surreptitiously overtake the movement of the metropolis. We don’t have to reject the possibilities of travel and communication that the commercial infrastructure offers; we just have to know their limits. We just have to be prudent, innocuous. Visits in person are more secure, leave no trace, and forge much more consistent connections than any list of contacts on the internet. The privilege many of us enjoy of being able to “circulate freely” from one end of the continent to the other, and even across the world without too much trouble, is not a negligible asset when it comes to communication between pockets of conspiracy. One of the charms of the metropolis is that it allows Americans, Greeks, Mexicans, and Germans to meet furtively in Paris for the time it takes to discuss strategy.

Constant movement between friendly communes is one of the things that keeps them from drying up and from the inevitability of abandonment. Welcoming comrades, keeping abreast of their initiatives, reflecting on their experiences and making use of new techniques they’ve developed does more good for a commune than sterile self-examinations behind closed doors. It would be a mistake to underestimate how much can be decisively worked out over the course of evenings spent comparing views on the war in progress.

Remove all obstacles, one by one

It’s well known that the streets teem with incivilities. Between what they are and what they should be stands the centripetal force of the police, doing their best to restore order to them; and on the other side there’s us, the opposite centrifugal movement. We can’t help but delight in the fits of anger and disorder wherever they erupt. It’s not surprising that these national festivals that aren’t really celebrating anything anymore are now systematically going bad. Whether sparkling or dilapidated, the urban fixtures – but where do they begin? where do they end? – embody our common dispossession. Persevering in their nothingness, they ask for nothing more than to return to that state for good. Take a look at what surrounds us: all this will have its final hour. The metropolis suddenly takes on an air of nostalgia, like a field of ruins.

All the incivilities of the streets should become methodical and systematic, converging in a diffuse, effective guerrilla war that restores us to our ungovernability, our primordial unruliness. It’s disconcerting to some that this same lack of discipline figures so prominently among the recognized military virtues of resistance fighters. In fact though, rage and politics should never have been separated. Without the first, the second is lost in discourse; without the second the first exhausts itself in howls. When words like “enragés” and “exaltés” resurface in politics they’re always greeted with warning shots.

As for methods, let’s adopt the following principle from sabotage: a minimum of risk in taking the action, a minimum of time, and maximum damage. As for strategy, we will remember that an obstacle that has been cleared away, leaving a liberated but uninhabited space, is easily replaced by another obstacle, one that offers more resistance and is harder to attack.

No need to dwell too long on the three types of workers’ sabotage: reducing the speed of work, from “easy does it” pacing to the “work-to-rule” strike; breaking the machines, or hindering their function; and divulging company secrets. Broadened to the dimensions of the whole social factory, the principles of sabotage can be applied to both production and circulation. The technical infrastructure of the metropolis is vulnerable. Its flows amount to more than the transportation of people and commodities. Information and energy circulates via wire networks, fibers and channels, and these can be attacked. Nowadays sabotaging the social machine with any real effect involves reappropriating and reinventing the ways of interrupting its networks. How can a TGV line or an electrical network be rendered useless? How does one find the weak points in computer networks, or scramble radio waves and fill screens with white noise?

As for serious obstacles, it’s wrong to imagine them invulnerable to all destruction. The promethean element in all of this boils down to a certain use of fire, all blind voluntarism aside. In 356 BC, Erostratus burned down the temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the world. In our time of utter decadence, the only thing imposing about temples is the dismal truth that they are already ruins.

Annihilating this nothingness is hardly a sad task. It gives action a fresh demeanor. Everything suddenly coalesces and makes sense – space, time, friendship. We must use all means at our disposal and rethink their uses – we ourselves being means. Perhaps, in the misery of the present, “fucking it all up” will serve – not without reason - as the last collective seduction.

Flee visibility. Turn anonymity into an offensive position

In a demonstration, a union member tears the mask off of an anonymous person who has just broken a window. “Take responsibility for what you’re doing instead of hiding yourself.” To be visible is to be exposed, that is to say above all, vulnerable. When leftists everywhere continually make their cause more “visible” – whether that of the homeless, of women, or of undocumented immigrants – in hopes that it will get dealt with, they’re doing exactly the contrary of what must be done. Not making ourselves visible, but instead turning the anonymity to which we’ve been relegated to our advantage, and through conspiracy, nocturnal or faceless actions, creating an invulnerable position of attack. The fires of November 2005 offer a model for this. No leader, no demands, no organization, but words, gestures, complicities. To be socially nothing is not a humiliating condition, the source of some tragic lack of recognition – from whom do we seek recognition? – but is on the contrary the condition for maximum freedom of action. Not claiming your illegal actions, only attaching to them some fictional acronym – we still remember the ephemeral BAFT (Brigade Anti-Flic des Tarterêts)- is a way to preserve that freedom. Quite obviously, one of the regime’s first defensive maneuvers was the creation of a “banlieue” subject to treat as the author of the “riots of November 2005.” Just looking at the faces on some of this society’s somebodies illustrates why there’s such joy in being nobody.

Visibility must be avoided. But a force that gathers in the shadows can’t avoid it forever. Our appearance as a force must be pushed back until the opportune moment. The longer we avoid visibility, the stronger we’ll be when it catches up with us. And once we become visible our days will be numbered. Either we will be in a position to pulverize its reign in short order, or we’ll be crushed in no time.

Organize Self-Defense

We live under an occupation, under police occupation. Undocumented immigrants are rounded up in the middle of the street, unmarked police cars patrol the boulevards, metropolitan districts are pacified with techniques forged in the colonies, the Minister of the Interior makes declarations of war on “gangs” that remind us of the Algerian war – we are reminded of it every day. These are reasons enough to no longer let ourselves be beaten down, reasons enough to organize our self-defense.

To the extent that it grows and radiates, a commune begins to see the operations of power target that which constitutes it. These counterattacks take the form of seduction, of recuperation, and as a last resort, brute force. For a commune, self-defense must be a collective fact, as much practical as theoretical. Preventing an arrest, gathering quickly and in large numbers against eviction attempts and sheltering one of our own, will not be superfluous reflexes in coming times. We cannot ceaselessly reconstruct our bases from scratch. Let’s stop denouncing repression and instead prepare to meet it.

It’s not a simple affair, for we expect a surge in police work being done by the population itself – everything from snitching to occasional participation in citizens’ militias. The police forces blend in with the crowd. The ubiquitous model of police intervention, even in riot situations, is now the cop in civilian clothes. The effectiveness of the police during the last anti-CPE demonstrations was a result of plainclothes officers mixing among us and waiting for an incident before revealing who they are: gas, nightsticks, tazers, detainment; all in strict coordination with demonstration stewards. The mere possibility of their presence was enough to create suspicion amongst the demonstrators – who’s who? – and to paralyze action. If we agree that a demonstration is not merely a way to stand and be counted but a means of action, we have to equip ourselves better with resources to unmask plainclothes officers, chase them off, and if need be snatch back those they’re trying to arrest.

The police are not invincible in the streets, they simply have the means to organize, train, and continually test new weapons. Our weapons, on the other hand, are always rudimentary, cobbled-together, and often improvised on the spot. They certainly don’t have a hope of rivaling theirs in firepower, but can be used to hold them at a distance, redirect attention, exercise psychological pressure or force passage and gain ground by surprise. None of the innovations in urban guerilla warfare currently deployed in the French police academies are sufficient to respond rapidly to a moving multiplicity that can strike a number of places at once and that tries to always keep the initiative.

Communes are obviously vulnerable to surveillance and police investigations, to policing technologies and intelligence gathering. The waves of arrests of anarchists in Italy and of eco-warriors in the US were made possible by wiretapping. Everyone detained by the police now has his or her DNA taken to be entered into an ever more complete profile. A squatter from Barcelona was caught because he left fingerprints on fliers he was distributing. Tracking methods are becoming better and better, mostly through biometric techniques. And if the distribution of electronic identity cards is instituted, our task will just be that much more difficult. The Paris Commune found a partial solution to the keeping of records: they burned down City Hall, destroying all the public records and vital statistics. We still need to find the means to permanently destroy computerized databases.

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May 31 2009 20:44

Is this the Tiqqun committee that had a lot of its members arrested last year?

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May 31 2009 20:51

Yes. Nine affiliates were arrested by French counter-terrorism forces in the small town of Tarnac in November 2008. Julien Coupat, whom the French state alleged to be the leader, was only just released a couple days ago. The state tried to claim that the Tarnac 9 were responsible for sabotaging rail lines using iron poles to short the circuits, despite the fact that these instances of sabotage were claimed by anarchists in Germany. The only "evidence" the state had against the Tarnac 9 was their distribution of the Coming Insurrection.

More info can be found at http://tarnac9.wordpress.com/

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May 31 2009 21:02

Renegado, this is interesting stuff. I haven't read the full text yet, so I can't give it a proper appraisal/critique. It also means the preliminary impressions of what I've seen of this stand to be corrected by a proper reading, so some of my comments and questions might seem stupid and ill-informed...

I first became aware of this stuff through the reports of the Tarnac arrests on Libcom a few months ago, and have tried to keep abreast of it since. I get the impression that there's some similarity with primitivist ideas (ie Perlman's Against Leviathan - another text I haven't troubled to read), if only for the fact that the Tarnac people had started a rural commune growing veg for local consumption (seemingly winning the support of villagers). A fundamental difference would be the affirmation of the history and present reality of industrial and urban struggle made explicit in the extract you posted. Bearing in mind the 'situationist connection' which I've seen raised in other comments on Julien Coupat and Tarnac, what relation do you think this has with the trajectory of ex-SI participants like Rene Riesel who became a sheep farmer and activist in the peasants' confederation against GM foods and suchlike?

I was also struck by the name of the journal Coupat and co. published in - Tiqqun. Was this title an intentional nod to the kabbalistic tradition of Jewish mysticism? As far as one understanding of tiqqun or tikkun goes, it was the piecing together of a world shattered by an excess of severity, a process of redemption achieved by 'good deeds'. This seems to fit in with the voluntarism of people 'attaching themselves to what they feel true' proposed in the extract you've posted above.

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May 31 2009 21:02

I didn't realise that they'd held Coupat for so long, thanks for the information.

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May 31 2009 21:13

Just seen the first 'reply' to this thread, which came through while I was labouring over my initial response - will get back...

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Jun 1 2009 04:40

Don't take my word for it but Coupat was not the author of The Coming Insurrection; neither was anyone else involved with Tiqqun. Coupat actually hasn't authored anything. But again, don't take my word for it; I only came across this information through a recent, and very brief, discussion on Anarchist News.org.

The Coming Insurrection is an interesting text, but Tiqqun also interests me, if not more. Although, I don't know if there are many Tiqqun writings translated into english.

As a side note, I was reading the wikipedia page for autonomism and it mentioned the arrests and incarceration of the Tarnac 9. So I'm curious if Tiqqun and other similar writings are more connected to autonomism than insurrectionary anarchism. It appears that autonomists, like insurrectionists, advocate forms of self-organization as opposed to formalism; I don't really have any firm knowledge of the autonomist movements and theory but from what I read on wikipedia I recognized a distinction between autonomism and I@. Autonomists are marxists and lean towards workerism. Whereas insurrectionists are much more broad in their dealings with milieus and theory (although, anarchist-communism seems to be what many insurrectionists, such as myself, delve into, theory wise), as well as being defined by an acute opposition to leftism. Anyway, that's probably an insignificant inquiry, but it struck me as odd that the arrests of the Tarnac 9 would be cuddled away in a wiki page for autonomism; especially because The Coming Insurrection--no doubt inspired by Tiqqun--seems much more insurrectionary, as it's devoid of any marxist ideology and workerism, and it's definitely not the writings of leftists.

Fredy Perlman's writing's are brilliant, and I also want to read Against His-Story, Against Leviathan; but I don't think the authors of The Coming Insurrection had Fredy Perlman in mind when they wrote it, and if the word on the grapevine is true then the Tarnac 9 had nothing to do with The Coming Insurrection; or perhaps it was just Coupat that had nothing to do with authoring it.

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Jun 1 2009 15:57
Quote:
"I'm going to get into trouble again for saying this, but: there is no Autonomist Marxism.

The groups and individuals in the Anglo-American countries that claim to represent it (Cleaver, Midnight Notes) are really promoting a sort of bastardized Operaismo with some anarchoid garnish.

Operaismo in Italy was actually quite Leninist, though not in the caricatured sense of the word. The mistake, as far as I can tell, is made when Anglophone anarchists assume that any political tendency that emphasizes extra-parliamentary activity and opposition to trade unions is necessarily "anarchist".

And to call Hardt & Negri "anarcho-syndicalist" is an insult to "anarcho-syndicalism". Negri these days is nothing but a solid mainstream reformist, from his praise of the German Greens to his lavish encomiums to the European Union. Only, gullible American radicals have been snookered by the likes of Harry Cleaver into thinking that Negri is some kind of radical. Dude has been coasting for 30 years on his reputation from the 1970s, only unlike Joschka Fischer, he hasn't been denounced as the charlatan that he is.

P.S. Just to prove how diplomatic I can be, I really love that "bolo bolo" booklet by PM. "

There's another thread on here discussing autonomist marxism; I'm glad someone clarified. That's just about what I was expecting to hear.

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Jun 1 2009 21:21

From Renegado's second post (#1) - presumably 'The Coming Insurrection':

Quote:
The feeling of imminent collapse is everywhere so strong these days that it would be hard to enumerate all of the current experiments in matters of construction, energy, materials, illegality or agriculture. There’s a whole set of skills and techniques just waiting to be plundered and ripped from their humanistic, street-culture, or eco-friendly trappings. Yet this group of experiments is but one part of all of the intuitions, the know-how, and the ingenuity found in slums that will have to be deployed if we intend to repopulate the metropolitan desert and ensure the viability of an insurrection beyond its first stages.

How will we communicate and move about during a total interruption of the flows? How will we restore food production in rural areas to the point where they can once again support the population density that they had sixty years ago?

Two things strike me from a cursory reading of the extracts posted of TCI. One is the 'situationist feel' of the language - phrases like 'counterattacks take the form of seduction', for example. It seems reminiscent of Ratgeb's (Vaneigem's) Contributions to the Revolutionary Struggle The other thing is an apocalyptic dimension, suggested by the 'feeling of imminent collapse' which opens the extract quoted above. Assuming - perhaps wrongly - a connection between the Tiqqun group and this text, the possible evocation of the 'Messianic anarchism' of Gershom Scholem and 'Messianic Marxism' of Ernst Bloch and Walter Benjamin in the group's name (subject to confirmation or rebuttal) would tend to reinforce the apocalyptic motif of the text.

If TCI is seen as a 'postsituationist' text it nevertheless diverges markedly from the standard 'Debordist' template with its 'back-to-the-land' aspect.

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Jun 1 2009 22:08

Another thing that struck me from my (also cursory) reading is an interest in informal mutual aid networks involving things like gardening, fraud, petty crime, circles of friends, secret groups, and the usual mistrust of organisation. Gathered together they view these activities as "communes", the new form they promote, but which all seems a bit silly and crimethinky really. Do they really think think these types of activity have much potential for revolutionary change? I don't.

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Jun 1 2009 22:22
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"the usual mistrust of organisation."

Strawman. Those who advocate self-organization over, or in opposition to, formalism are not mistrusting of organization.

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"Do they really think think these types of activity have much potential for revolutionary change? I don't. "

Of course, you're presupposing - in an implicit way - that formal organizations lend their proponents and members revolutionary agency (the ability to destroy the social order) by default. Which is just as silly - if not more - than any of the hijinks of Crimethincers. Crimethinc is an aberration of anarchist subculture. They infuse insurrectionist rhetoric with activism and escapist values. In actuality, Crimethinc has never been a 'serious' (excuse the pretension) conduit of insurrectionary anarchism or self-organization.

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Jun 1 2009 22:22
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Another thing that struck me from my (also cursory) reading is an interest in informal mutual aid networks involving things like gardening, fraud, petty crime, circles of friends, secret groups, and the usual mistrust of organisation. Gathered together they view these activities as "communes", the new form they promote, but which all seems a bit silly and crimethinky really. Do they really think think these types of activity have much potential for revolutionary change? I don't.

It all seems a bit of a ragbag, or 'bricolage'.

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Jun 1 2009 22:46

I've read TCI before; I only managed to read half of it on my second reading (it was the version on Fenderson and I didn't really trust the quality of the translation).

From what I can remember, the text presents a critique of French society and all of it's numerous social/radical milieus. The rest of it is a bit of speculative theorizing on how it would be possible - in the author's opinion - to sustain a situation of generalized insurrection. I've never read anything by Tiqqun, so it's hard to say if TCI improves on Tiqquns ideas or detracts from them. In a way, it's sort of a very updated and newer version of The Conquest of Bread. Anyone else see the shy resemblance?? Maybe it's just me...

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Jun 1 2009 23:20
Bisc wrote:
Quote:
"the usual mistrust of organisation."

Strawman. Those who advocate self-organization over, or in opposition to, formalism are not mistrusting of organization.

Self-organisation and "formalism" (what is that? naming your organisation? having defined procedures?) are not opposites. At all. This text says that organisations end up just supporting their own survival. I would say informal organisations end up being informally controlled by the cliques of friends who started them, not by the membership as a whole, and therefore cannot be examples of self-organisation.

TCI wrote:
In all their affairs, at every level, these organizations are concerned above all with their own survival as organizations, and little else.

This has a grain of truth to it, but that is all, a grain. Remove "above all" and "and little else" and it starts to resemble reality.

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Jun 1 2009 23:55

Don't play the semantic game. You can look at any pro-revolutionary text that uses the term 'self-organization' and see a clearly distinct form of organization that is separate from formalism being discussed. I use formalism as a term for formal organization, i.e. organization that is institutional, based on documented tenets of uniformity, and relies on the growth of membership in order to reproduce an alternative structure that can 'replace' the predominant forms of institutions/structure in society. Unions, federations, political parties, perhaps even base nuclei (which is a form of organization developed by Alfredo Bonanno, a prominent insurrectionary anarchist; it's basically insurrectionist federalism). As opposed to self-organization, which is anti-institutional, not based on any formalism, and does not seek to reproduce structure. Affinity groups, workers councils, communes, immediatist tongs etc. Although, workers councils are representative and democratic. Something I'm not too supportive of. I would recommend this essay by Gilles Dauve if you're looking for a proper critique of democratism and politics: http://libcom.org/library/a-contribution-critique-political-autonomy-gilles-dauve-2008

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"I would say informal organisations end up being informally controlled by the cliques of friends who started them, not by the membership as a whole, and therefore cannot be examples of self-organisation."

Informal organization is no more capable of negating hierarchy than formal organizations are. The 'red tape' of formal organizations (preset and procedural conditions that hamper autonomous actions), pro-revolutionary or not, and their fetish of reproducing structure and counter-institutions presents major problems. The idea that by creating 'checks and balances' in human organization, hierarchical relations will be stifled is ridiculous. Not to mention the innately political nature of formal organizations; they can only reproduce themselves through politicization and voluntarism. It's no better than the sinister functions of civil society. That you have to contribute to the organization's growth and activity to be a part of the revolution. Just as in civil society, you have to be a 'citizen' or 'member' and be within the bounds of judicial power in order to be recognized as a non-belligerent and gain trust.

In short, self-organization is a pure means. Formal organization is an ends. The constant reproduction of formalism and it's incessant maintenance causes it to be obsolete. It's reliance on politicization is crap.

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Jun 2 2009 00:00

Sorry, but you're simply misusing the word "self-organisation". Got to go now, work is over, but I'll comment later.

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Jun 2 2009 00:03

As a side note, base nuclei and workers councils are interesting. They are cross-forms between formal organization and self-organization. To my knowledge, base nuclei are anti-institutional but reproductive and perhaps even a bit systematized (formalist). Whereas workers councils are informal and self-interested (organization is done in the self-interest of the organized as opposed to organization being an ends), but seek to gain control of institutions.

Both base nuclei and workers councils have their pros and cons. I'm going to have to study them further though.

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Jun 2 2009 00:06

I'll use self-organization as I see fit. If you do choose to continue this discussion, please refrain from pushing that 'anti-organizational' crap that I always hear from formalists. Insurrectionists aren't anti-organization, we're simply anti-institution and against procedural organization. Everything I say is subjective though. Insurrectionary anarchism is broad and diverse. I'm sure there are insurrectionists that may be more fond of base nuclei than I am.

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Jun 3 2009 17:34

groucho

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Jun 2 2009 00:30

"I'll use self-organization as I see fit."

Lol! That's a pretty good pun.

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Jun 2 2009 02:34
Bisc wrote:
The idea that by creating 'checks and balances' in human organization, hierarchical relations will be stifled is ridiculous.

Ridiculous? Why? You think having an official directly democratic structure where everyone understands how the group operates and can therefore play a part isn't going to reduce the hierarchical nature of a group at least somewhat? Compare that to, say, the informal hierarchy of Reclaim the Streets in London in 1999/2000 or so, where decisions were suddenly changed by a core clique, ignoring what had been decided in the mass meeting beforehand.

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Not to mention the innately political nature of formal organizations; they can only reproduce themselves through politicization and voluntarism.

How is that different to informal organisation? Do they just magically do stuff?

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Just as in civil society, you have to be a 'citizen' or 'member' and be within the bounds of judicial power in order to be recognized as a non-belligerent and gain trust.

You have to be accountable to the rest of the group. How is that bad?

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It's reliance on politicization is crap.

you haven't shown why informal organisation wouldn't rely on politicisation. I'm not sure exactly what you mean by this, or why it's a bad thing.

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Jun 2 2009 03:28

I don't care about Reclaim the Streets. They're activists, i.e. specialists. They have nothing to do with insurrectionist praxis. And the fact that the mass meeting failed seems to reveal more of a failing in democratism than informality. Isn't that the purpose of democratism? To keep communication something separate from other activities done by the organization and make sure there's no disagreement--to keep everyone on the same page.

"You have to be accountable to the rest of the group. How is that bad?"

Depends on what you mean by "bad". Why should one limit one's own activities to the watchful eye of the rest of the group; why do people have to be restricted by formalities? Can't you see the judicial logic in that? If someone does something that harms the other people in the group then the group should discuss it and decide what to do, yes. But if we're desiring individual autonomy then I would prefer our organization reflect that as much as possible. Why should one have to be recognized and validated by the formalities of the group? Do you seriously sympathize with the social mores of civil society? That one must be under the policing of sovereign formalities in order to be validated and recognized as 'friend'?

And by politicization, I mean the indoctrination of people with some pro-revolutionary political ideology. I recognize myself as an anti-political communist, so perhaps this is a topic that you may never be able to understand. I see politics as merely the apportioning of alienated power and the representation of a constituent interest. Perhaps this quote from Dauve may help you see what I mean by "alienated power" (hahaha...I'm not some sort of Dauveist, I swear; I just really like his writings):

Quote:
Man is not outside natural conditions, since he is part of them. But he wants to understand them and he has begun playing with them. One can debate the mechanisms which brought this about (the extent to which it resulted from difficulties of survival, especially in temperate regions, etc.) but one thing is certain: By transforming his environment and then, in turn, being transformed by it, man has placed himself in a position radically different from any other known state of matter. Once unburdened of metaphysical presuppositions, this ability to play somewhat with the laws of matter is precisely what constitutes human freedom. Stripped of this freedom - since it went to feed economy - as he produced it, man must now reconquer it without deluding himself about what freedom is. It is neither the freedom of unfettered and ever-surging desire, nor the freedom to follow (who could decipher?) Mother Nature's commandments. Full rein must also be given to this freedom to play with the laws of matter - whether one is talking about changing the course of a river or the sexual use of an orifice not naturally "intended" for the purpose. Finally, it must be understood that risk is the only guarantee of freedom.

I'm unsteady with communist materialism, but that excerpt presents itself as reliable, definition wise. We are alienated from the means to produce our own existence, alienated from free access to social wealth. Politics, for me, is merely the distraction of that power into some representative form. Identity politics does an exemplary job of presenting why politics are fucked. Like the thread about "Queer Politics". Queer politics is the subsuming (subsumption?) of innate libidinal functions into political platforms of identity--human libido (sexuality) turned into a political issue. Same thing with racial politics, and gender politics, and all that other essentialist crap.

"One can only speak of the victory of the proletarians to the extent that one simultaneously affirms that they will not realize it as proletarians, but in negating themselves, in posing man."(Jacques Camatte)

That quote rings true with me; and as I said in the other thread on Anarchist News: "The only liberating interest that the proletariat could ever share is their own negation." In fact, just replace 'proletarian' with homosexual or "white people" and you'll start to see where I'm coming from with my beef with identity politics.

Anyway, that's the only interest proletarians could collectively - objectively - share. The negation of the proletarian will not occur through organizing around "working class interests", as they can only share one truly collective interest.

Auto-Nomos. Auto means Self. Nomos Means Law. Autonomous means law of the self. Formalism is in contradiction to that, as I see it. I don't want to commandeer institutions; I don't want to be subjected to the formalities of a structured organization; and I especially don't want my communication with other peoples separated from other activities and strangled by overseeing councils and principles that I disagree with. I want to be able to friggin' breath and do things on my own time, in my own way, and on my own energy; if others care to join, then good. The more the better, just as long as there are no procedures to follow. And the only accountability will be authentic accountability; it won't be treated like some court proceeding.

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Jun 2 2009 03:26

I also never said informal organization is inherently anti-political. Many insurrectionists see themselves as political. If anything, the growth of insurrectionary anarchism has more to do with culture than politics.

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Jun 2 2009 05:43

I offered you a clear example of how "informal" organisation failed and you say you don't care and it doesn't matter because they weren't insurrectionists! Ridiculous. If you can't see a problem here, there is no point arguing with you.

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I recognize myself as an anti-political communist, so perhaps this is a topic that you may never be able to understand.

A little patronising, no? Instead of regurgitating jargon, I think you need to to take a dive into the real world, maybe participate in the practice of various groups so you can actually understand what you are saying.

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If anything, the growth of insurrectionary anarchism has more to do with culture than politics.

I agree, and that's a sign of its shallowness.

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Jun 2 2009 16:01

If you think informal organization is the only facet of insurrectionary anarchism, then you probably have never even attempted to learn anything about it. Informal organization is used by many. It doesn't surprise me that the activists fucked it up; that's what they do, they're activists. Specialism, democratism and informal organization don't mix very well. If that had happened among insurrectionists then those people probably would have been chased off. But for one, they were en masse and organized as such; that's one fault. Two, they attempted to get everyone to agree, formally, and on the same page; that obviously failed, spectacularly. Three, they all probably thought they were the shit - a strong trait among specialists of all kinds - and some smart asses in the group probably thought that, because the formal meeting failed, then they would have to "guide" the rest of the herd in the right direction. They failed miserably; again, that's just what activists do. They fail.

The fact that you're getting upset reveals that maybe, just maybe, you're taking this too seriously. I've seen your comments on this site and you're just like many of the other posters on libcom; you completely dismiss insurrectionary anarchism at every turn. You use bullshit slurs, like "crimethinky", in order to describe the things you never could get through your thick, dogmatic head. In fact, it seems to me like your beef with other anarchists is mostly aimed at anarcho-activist subculture; can you even recognize that? Have you ever even displayed critical thoughts towards activist praxis? Insurrectionary anarchism cannot be activist. They're two, entirely different forms of practice; we (insurrectionists) are opposed to activism.

Basically, it comes down to this: formal organizations operate on external procedures that every member is required to agree on; if they disagree then they're told to make their own formal organization (how brilliant; it's the logic of the cancer cell at work) with it's own political tenets of uniformity. Insurrectionists operate just like any other autonomous being would, on internalized principles. We disregard procedures and "smooth functioning" for exactly what we should follow, our own damn way. Formalists run away from conflict and disagreement; insurrectionists embrace it, and if it occurs amongst ourselves then we deal with it in whatever way we see fit. We depose "building the new world in the shell of the old" and instead turn to generalized revolt. And you can look at any major anti-authoritarian revolt in recent years, they were all instances of insurrection and general revolt among the dispossessed. No formal organizations. No procedures. No checks and balances. No red tape. No democratism. None. Nada.

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Jun 2 2009 16:07

You are a fantasist.

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Jun 2 2009 16:09

And you're a dogmatic leftist. We all have our problems. laugh out loud

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Jun 2 2009 16:14

Anyways...getting past this completely derailing conversation...

TCI is a good rhetorical book and a good critique of the society that the authors find themselves immersed in. I'm more interested in Tiqqun though; hopefully I'll be able to find some of their pieces online.

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Jun 3 2009 16:58

Eh, ignoring the stuff about the things you attribute to formalists that insurrectionists apparently avoid, I don't fully agree with this and I think you're either avoiding this or masking it with language (you still haven't explained what you mean by 'politicisation' or 'structure' and how this doesn't apply to insurrectionists), I'd like to come back to this but I think 888 has kindof touched upon it. Even affinity groups have structures and workers councils most definately do. Also, affinity groups have for the most part theoretical and tactical unity , it just isn't formally written down. Furthermore, the idea that insurrectionists avoid voluntarism is laughable.

I'm not sure where you're based, but from my knowledge of insurrectionist circles in Europe, the Call's (and by extension The Coming Insurrection's) star has fallen just as quickly as it rose within them.

Just one online example (though I'm guessing you've read this).
http://www.anarchistnews.org/?q=node/7499

I think you should also take a look at
http://libcom.org/library/strategy-struggle-anarcho-syndicalism-21st-century
for some interesting views on anarchist organisation.

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Jun 2 2009 18:56

I apologize if I presented any of my arguments in a crude way. If I made it seem like insurrectionary anarchism is anti-voluntarism or anti-political by nature, then I clearly wasn't making a good argument. Insurrectionary organization is voluntary and freely associative. But those who participate are not subjected to external tenets, formalities and political doctrine, as they would be in a union or socialist federation. Nor are they expected to be responsible for the continuity of organizational growth and have their actions dictated by the group as a whole.

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Furthermore, affinity groups also have theoretical and tactical unity for the most part, it just isn't formally written down.

I'm not anti-unity. I'm anti-uniformity. Insurrectionist organization is based on reciprocity between all individuals involved, not documented platforms and formalities. Plurality over synthesis.

I've never read Call. Most of the responses to it I've seen (like on Anti-politics.net and Salon De Ver Luisant) were negative. I posted that critique of it in order to draw some more responses. The critique itself seemed a bit pretentious to me, but it failed to serve it's purpose anyway, so I really don't care at this point. I have also read that article on syndicalism, but my memory of it isn't very good. I'm trying to read The Eclipse and Re-Emergence of The Communist Movement right now, so you'll have to excuse me if I don't get around to re-reading that essay.

When I say 'structure', I mean institutional formalities and political procedures. Unions, socialist federations, political parties, and other formal organizations all survive through constant reproduction and maintenance of their structure. Growth of membership, spreading of political tenets and ideology among their targeted political constituency - politicization, representation of any given constituents interests (how would radical unions survive if workers weren't cajoled into workplace reform and socialist ideology??) etc, etc.

Both Call and TCI aren't severely important texts, IMO. But they're interesting, and it's good to see communists moving away from the orthodoxy (which most of this site does an excellent job of presenting; the orthodoxy, I mean). Heterodoxy among pro-revolutionaries along with the abandonment of activism are things I see as of utmost importance. Both TCI and Call make an argument for that in their own way, and I applaud the authors for doing that.