The Coming Insurrection: An identity-based construction and existential alternative – Alain C.

The Coming Insurrection: An identity-based construction and existential alternative – Alain C.

A 2009 critique of the sensational anarchist best-seller, The Coming Insurrection, in which the author claims that it is not its “ideas” or “worldview” that are what is most important about the book, but rather the fact that it is essentially an appeal for an identity-based politics, a “permanent drunkenness of the Ego” that postulates an abstract, socially undifferentiated “being” that is supposed to find itself at home in a paradise worshiping its “fetish”, “identity”, and the author concludes that the total elimination of this harmful tendency is “one of the goals of a communist revolution”.

The Coming Insurrection: An Identity-based Construction and Existential Alternative – Alain C.

This text is not a critical study of the theses expounded in the book, The Coming Insurrection, nor is it an attempt to “theoretically dismantle” that book. At first, I thought of approaching it from that angle, and I am certainly not the only one. The book contains many statements that can be effectively disputed. However, I was soon struck by a feeling of the uselessness of such an approach. This feeling, or rather this intuition, was that of the impossibility of any dialogue with this book, or that any such dialogue would always be breaking down at any given moment. I had the demoralizing feeling that this text cannot be criticized: it seemed to me that something else was going on here, that it was not something that we can debate, that it was not simply a matter of ideas with which one might disagree. The essential thing about the text was not what it asserts but rather the act of assertion itself.

This vehement will to self-assertion is what gives the text its power, but also its immobility. This is what makes it impermeable to dialogue. I see not only a stylistic effect, but also a deep structure that is characteristic of all doctrinal postulates.

Then it occurred to me: if The Coming Insurrection is not an effective defense of ideas, a worldview or a political project; what the text expounds is always conditioned by the assertion of an identity. It is from this angle that I shall approach it.

The identity and its own

It is not necessary to define an identity in order to know it, just as it is not necessary to define a cat in order to know that it is a cat.

An individual can have a facial tic, because he is an individual; a thousand individuals who have the same facial tic might reflect a fashion, or an epidemic; a thousand individuals who defend a facial tic—that is an identity.

An identity is what constitutes the basis of a group by allowing each individual involved to actively define himself by way of that identity. For the individual it is a process of active submission that allows him to proclaim his identity. In exchange for this, this identity gives the individual the benefit of subjective reinforcement. The simplest advantage is that of being able to say: “I am me”, and especially “I am not” this or that.

An identity is distinguished by common positions, borders, limits. There is a We and there are the others who are defined with respect to us. Identity wants to be visible. Hence the gestures, the customs, the words and their direct utility: to assure visibility, which is the determinant factor in identity. From this point of view it is quite obvious that disguises do not exist to conceal faces, but to manifest an identity.

An identity resolves nothing, but has an answer for everything. For every problem, and every contradiction, every threat, it reacts spontaneously, with its own purposes: its self-preservation and its self-reinforcement. How to distinguish itself, how to determine and reconstitute around itself the stage set of its world: it responds to all of this with the speed of a natural reflex reaction. The stage set of its world: no identity is based on a simple worldview but rather on an active stage setting of that world. The world is actively constructed as a story, in which identity plays a leading or tragic role. Identity detests the superfluous, the indeterminate, anything that does not allow it to pass judgment or to take a position. Identity likes order. “To introduce a little order into the common-places of our time.”

For the individual who lives within it, identity is always under construction. There is always something that escapes the perfect identification of the individual: there are always defects, there are always new reinforcements in which he must believe. Identity is always a search for identity.

Identity always obscures the enemy as soon as it appears. Since the enemy is made to appear depending on the requirements of its own stage set, it succeeds in picturing it, but never knows it. It immediately files down all its contradictory sharp and superfluous edges. The enemy is nothing but the pretext for its own self-confirmation. Identity, on this level as well as other levels, is selective.

Identity, finding in itself everything that it needs, does not feel its own limits: in this way it is like an alcoholic or a drug addict, without the hangover and without the drink. An identity is the permanent drunkenness of the Ego.

To desire the unity of the Ego, to see to it that ideas and life agree, to feel a horror for doubt and to resolve it, the need for self-affirmation, coherence and cohesion: identity.

An identity cannot recognize itself as such without putting itself in danger. The fact that the philosophers of the 18th century were capable of pointing out that the gestures of religion were just gestures, was the proof of an irremediable rupture in Christian identity. And vice-versa.

An identity, a social object, has its utility in the economy of the social. In particular, marginal identities play the role of antibodies for the global identity (society), which they help in its efforts to redefine itself and to reinforce itself. Christianity did not last much longer than the heresies that it had itself produced. And vice-versa.

Identity is a cognitive reality anchored in individuals, placed at the service of particular social needs. Etcetera, etcetera.

In the beginning was the Ego

This brief digression that has become a little dry and is necessarily incomplete due to the general description of what I understand by the term, identity, allows us to understand a little better what is manifested in The Coming Insurrection.

It will be understood in particular why identity is so closely bound up with the problematic of the Ego: it is because identity involves the Ego. The Coming Insurrection offers identity. Its impact is felt to the extent that it proposes a plan for living for the wayward Ego. What it offers is not so much a political project as an existential alternative.

What was explicit in The Appeal [L’Appel], that is, the intention to form ideological and existentially distinct and cohesive groups, is reiterated in a diluted form in The Coming Insurrection, in a version aimed at the “broad public”. The purpose, however, is always the same: to convince, to appeal, to convoke. The first reinforcement that identity dreams of is numerical reinforcement. “We are not very numerous”, is its constant lament. We must constantly try to convince people, overcome their objections, force other groups to yield: we must convert them.

In order to do this, to render what it has to offer credible and necessary, The Coming Insurrection first sketches a picture of a world in ruins. The seven circles of Hell are not sufficient to describe this material and spiritual desolation. First, materially: and everyone knows this is true because of the images of the catastrophe and the statistics that fill the television screens. But above all, spiritually: because it is rather the alleged decline of the subject that offers a suitable arena for the proposal for the reconstruction of identity. One can only rebuild on top of ruins. Therefore, the leading figure in Hell is the totally-solitary Ego, the isolated subject and its proud motto, “I am what I am”. And behind him/her, the real subject, suffering, a misfit, depressed, who does not know how to fit his or her own reality into the revolt, that is, the suitable host for the proposed identity. “Join us, and you will be saved.”

As an existential alternative, The Coming Insurrection must assume that “the present offers no way out” in order to cut off the escape route of the Egos who are tempted to accommodate themselves with this unbearable world and find their places within it. To the contrary, they must allow themselves to undertake the unpleasant journey through the circles of Hell in order to discover in Paradise a project, a goal, a certainty: a choice of how to live.

The journey through the circles of Hell and the project towards which it leads involve this dynamic of the story of one’s own identity, conceived as an active and central subject of the world: only this can provide the meaning that it lacks.

I will not refrain from pointing out in passing my relative agreement with the definition of the Ego as a point of passage of a singular and collective experience of the world, and the concomitant critique of the straightjacket of identity in which it is situated. I merely regret that all the implications of this postulate have not been recognized. And my biggest complaint is that this definition does not extend to what socially determines the Ego, but is limited to making it something neutral, a subjectivity, a ghost lost in a socially undifferentiated world. And forgetfulness of everything that makes the world for some “Egos” not so much what they experience as that with which they are constantly colliding.

However, the individual’s experience as reality of the subject disappears very rapidly behind the valorization of the “bond”. Then the Ego is momentarily disconnected only to be outflanked in instability, fear of life, and so that it can once again be offered the fraternal bond. The bond, that is, the personal bond and not the stupid “social bond” the politicians talk about, is what is once again offered to the Ego, caught up in its vertigo. And what is better for creating a bond than a particular identity, restricted, warm, and, to top it all off, revolutionarily extendible to all, to the Us?

As an instrument for conversion, The Coming Insurrection rediscovers the good old methods of the religious preachers: first, instill fear, make people see Hell, and then propose a last resort to save themselves. And a rhetorical method, a method of training and of appropriation as well: toss a baby up in the air and immediately catch him, pose a threat and then extend your hand in peace. An identity is above all a process of submission and it knows and instinctively uses every means to this end.

“The ‘right moment’ — which never arrives”

And naturally the Ego has no choice: to consent to live indefinitely in the disturbing incubator of the world as it is, is to condemn oneself to perish with it. For the sentence has already been passed: the world Babylon is on the road to collapse. Therefore, the only alternative is to perish with it or to live in opposition to it. Finally, once again, “liberty or death”.

Nowhere is the possibility even mentioned, not even in the form of a hypothesis, that capitalism might still endure for a little while, that its collapse might proceed somewhat differently, or might even proceed so slowly that it might take centuries. Then what do we do? Should this possibility influence our actions, or is it better not to take it into account? In what time frame should we situate our actions? Naturally, these petty rational calculations that smack of liberalism are distasteful to our revolutionary identity that dreams of once again raising “the flag of the good old cause” and launching the assault, even if one must die in the attempt.

In terms of the stage setting, for an identity, proposals like “maybe this isn’t the right moment” are totally invalid. An identity is not constructed on stage sets like that featured in The Tartar Steppe.1 It is much more suited to the drums and bugles of the frontal assault. An identity cannot be established on the basis of uncertainties.

This is why it is useless to argue about the practical difficulties or the inopportune nature of a project in which identity plays a leading role: practical problems cannot be debated with an identity that needs to manifest itself. The possible and the impossible do not exist for an identity, and this constitutes its power, since it is this power that seeks its own reinforcement by way of the individuals who bear it. It does not adapt to the world with respect to objective realities.

To say that the right moment never arrives is to say that one never knows with certainty whether it is the right time or not, and therefore one must proceed without possessing the certainty of being successful. This is true but it does not mean that one does not have to take the temporal juncture into account, that is, to question the real, and not to expect it to respond to our desires. At the risk of having to act suddenly when the right moment does arrive.

The “right moment” for struggles does not depend directly on their participants, it is not subject to the decision or the choice of any committee, invisible or not. In reality, it is always the object of a conflict. And this is particularly true today, when struggles are less and less dependent on parties and trade unions, and are increasingly seeking to endow themselves with other forms, not more “radical” ones to be sure, but in any case less recuperable. An example is the struggle against the CPE2 in 2006 when the movement was assumed to have ended after the withdrawal of the CPE, but continued anyway because no one thought it was a good idea to stop there. Nonetheless, it would have been better to stop, even though this was not satisfying, because to continue would have been absurd. A social movement is thus constructed like a story, with a beginning, a middle and an end. Therefore, whether one likes it or not, it has its seasons. Returning to the example of 2006, its true “right moment” would have arrived if the protestors were able to continue the movement, when the “right moment” had already passed. “Right moments”, however, come and go; they do not depend solely on our choices. It is not a matter of surrendering to the bad temporal conjuncture of social movements that only want to remain what they are, but of injecting conflict into that temporal conjuncture.

“The feeling of imminent collapse”

Two centuries have already passed since we were told that capitalism was on the verge of collapse. All those who desired the end of capitalism have also tried to give it a historical destiny. In Marxist formulations one can read about the “permanent contradictions”, and “decadence”. And now we see it as “collapse”.

Collapse has its own characteristics: when a building collapses, it collapses because the materials of which it is made, and which until the last moment allowed it to stand, have degraded and have been corrupted in such a way that they no longer keep it upright. It is a process involving the whole structure, which starts slowly and then palpably proceeds to a critical stage, and finally undergoes a sudden acceleration in which the parts that are still solid yield under the weight of the parts that are totally degraded. This process can be diagnosed but the exact moment of its culmination cannot be foreseen.

It is a process involving a whole, a process of declining cohesion. Each piece of the whole is disconnected from the whole, it ceases to constitute an organic unity. From the biological point of view it would be similar to the decomposition of a body.

What is denied to capitalism, and even more broadly to the whole social world, in the notion of collapse, is its capacity to constitute a cohesive whole.

In opposition to this lack of cohesiveness, the identity marshals its own ethical cohesiveness, infinitely superior to that amorphous thing. To that lack of solidarity, solidarity is opposed, the density of bonds, even the impermeability of the group.

Against those bonds that are breaking apart, the identity opposes the power of restorative bonds. Every identity, fan club or sect has its secessionist moment that is also the moment of its founding.

It is obvious that in this conception, capitalism (or the empire, or whatever) is conceived as a single and external entity. It can also be a machine that is being destroyed by the deterioration of its parts.

An identity needs this external entity in order to constitute itself. It is concerned with casting out everything that is not itself, it is repelled by the idea of participating in what it detests. Capitalism is the enemy and this enemy cannot be within Us, it is outside of Us, it is an external entity.

The fate of collapse therefore describes capital as pure externality, against which we are only superficially limited, since it cannot lead us to cohabit with it nor can it influence us in our choices except occasionally. Against it, ingenuity and cleverness are more than sufficient as responses.

Capitalism is not only rejected as a social relation, but also as a compulsory social relation. The fact that one can be obliged to work is completely ignored, and this is precisely the problem.

If capitalism collapses, it is also because it has become a fiction in which no one believes. All of the efforts mobilized by the empire to survive boil down to this: to maintain the fiction of its own existence. This world is not real, it only appears to exist. It is a nullity, an abstraction, which it is best to explain before smashing it.

The “imminence” of the collapse confers its tragic mark on the adventures of the identity: it is the background, the backdrop of its story. This “imminence” inscribes this story in a temporality of permanent emergency. The time of the world is no longer viewed as lacking a determinate direction, in the sense of contingent fluctuations: it has a meaning, and a tragic meaning.

If the collapse is not discussed in a really precise way, this is because there is no need to really examine it: what matters is instead the feeling that there is a collapse. The conviction of living in this collapse reinforces the need that one has for identity, in order to overcome the fear of the collapse and to survive, in order to take advantage of it as an opportunity for a new reinforcement, even for a total realization of the content of the identity. A social micro-contract, the identity guarantees protection and salvation for those who adopt it.

The fact that the collapse never takes place is not a problem: we can always find indications of it ad infinitum. The millenarians who have foretold the date of the Millennium a hundred times and never saw it arrive, were not discouraged by this. Faith, that is, collectively organized blindness, sustained them.

The “decomposition of all social forms” is a very widespread idea. It is usually based on a nostalgia for the “real” social forms of the past. It is assumed that there was a better time when everyone had their determined social place, assigned once and for all. This somewhat vague nostalgia presently even dovetails with the civil society nostalgia for the Thirty Glorious Years,3 for a time when the State watched over us with paternal care.

The reality is that capitalism leads to constant social decomposition and this is precisely how it survives. In order to first constitute itself it needed to destroy an age-old peasant world in order to create a world of wage workers, which it is now in turn trying to destroy (or recompose), at least in the highly developed countries. Identifying this dynamic of vital destruction as collapse is attractive because it bestows upon the course of capitalist development the character of a natural process of decomposition without allowing us to perceive the stakes that are implicated in this process.

One cannot understand the meaning of a war simply by describing the harm that it causes. To say, “they destroyed Dresden” says nothing about the Second World War. To say, “social relations are breaking down” says nothing about capitalism. We still need to show why they are breaking down.

However, for an identity that constantly wants to polarize the world according to the needs of the narrative that allows that identity to be involved in the world, to understand means to accept. The world is “intolerable” only when it seems to be “without cause or reason”.

The identity that constitutes itself around an act of rejection considers the fact of trying to understand that which it rejects as compromise. Rejection is already enough: why try to understand? Trying to understand is the first step towards betrayal. You need to manifest your rejection, your revolt, and if you must understand the causes, it is only in order to nourish this revolt. The rest is superfluous.

There are indeed causes and reasons for the capitalist world, but what The Coming Insurrection maintains is that these reasons are insane, that is, unjustifiable. The fact that capitalism is not ethically justifiable, regrettably does not in the least deprive it of its reality or its own cohesiveness. Ethical rejection is not enough. Capitalism’s reasons are certainly not our reasons. To grasp these reasons, is what allows us to affirm the irreconcilable character of this conflict and to precisely situate it.

“When people find each other”

The image of desolation that The Coming Insurrection imputes to the world ends by leading to an idyllic paradise. Suddenly, “beings” get together. Having carefully swept every form of collective organization that is not suited to it from its path, the identity allows us to get a glimpse of our reward. Finally, we will be “beings”. We are not social subjects, antagonistically anchored in a class, bearers of contradictions, but simply “beings”.

“Beings” who have finally rid themselves of all bonds. Free and undifferentiated “beings”, cleansed of all the dross that social existence imposed on them. The Coming Insurrection speaks of “beings” the way humanism speaks of “Man”.

These “beings” have the transparency of angels and beautiful abstractions. They can take any form, choosing freely. Finally purged of all particularity, they are prepared to assume the new customs that are proposed for them.

Since conflict has been expelled from them, within them a congenial atmosphere of convergence reigns, so that what is formed among the “beings” is not a horrible “role”, since roles have been severely criticized. The bond between “beings” is of a totally different nature, pure and ineffable.

The identity cannot consider itself to be an identity. One’s perception is clouded, however, once one is infected by this magic in which these “beings” are liberated of all conflict, by the suspension of one’s own critical judgment.

What is outlined here by way of the free constitution of “beings” in “communes” is the perspective of an entirely pacified society, transparent to itself, stripped of all antagonisms: the old millenarian dream of a natural communism, based on the idea of the communist nature of man. Whether in the form of the Edenic golden age, or in the anthropological guise of a “primitive communism” that would return to the roots of the dawn of the social, this is always communism, the absolute equality of men, which is presupposed as the real social nature of persons.

There is thus a tendency to prefer the tribe, the band, or even the pack, as more natural things, more truly social than the “complex” societies of the capitalist world.

It is supposed that “primitive” man does not have any identity problem: he is strictly what he is, that is, his own place within the tribe. He is disencumbered of the weight of his own singularity. He is a pure, complete identity. He is the anthropological essence of man: communism.

Hence the assumption that the revolution is only a problem of material organization: all you need to do is pull the rug out from under the feet of all the institutions of complex society in order for the natural social order to spring forth: the direct route to communism.

Communism, the social nature of man, has strayed from its path because of history: all we need to do is to wipe the slate clean for it to arise directly. The examples of natural catastrophes like Hurricane Katrina show the way: all that is needed is a breakdown in the capitalist social organization for the “base” to organize itself, to rediscover its generous instincts, to communize.

Reality, however, is certainly much more complicated. If the human being is not the creature of Hobbes, of the primordial war of all against all that is the basis of all social contracts, if he is immediately social, this sociability does not manifest itself solely by way of an innate tendency to share. The social tendency to domination, to form social structures around the appropriation of power and/or goods by some people, and even the tendency to the maniacal accumulation of goods, is older than capitalism (which has nonetheless opened the floodgates to these tendencies), and is certainly older than man himself. Man, like other animals, is a social animal. There are chiefs among the great apes, too: the dominant male appropriates the best share of the food and the females. This does not prevent mutual aid among the individuals of the group. Simply for reasons having to do with natural selection, dominant individuals immediately take advantage of means that make them yet more dominant and cause the position of the weaker individuals to be even more inferior. Why would the nature of man be different?

Man, of course, mentally conceives his own societies and acts on them. His social flexibility is infinitely superior to that of his non-human relatives. He has a relation with his own sociability.

This relation, however, is not simply an instrumental relation: it often takes on the aspect of idolatry. Man is the creature that makes a fetish of his own society. And it is the fetish that ends up taking control over its worshippers. An identity is nothing more than a type of fetish.

Communism is not a more beneficial variant of the social contract. By dismantling the bonds constructed around appropriation, domination, accumulation, and territoriality, it not only dismantles a society but social existence itself. What communization creates is a world beyond the sacrifice of each person that is socially tolerated for the benefit of an alleged totality: the social. This idea of a world beyond the social inevitably evokes barbarism or bestiality: it inspires fear, just as the idea of a world without God would have terrified a Christian during the Middle Ages.

Such an idea is manifestly dangerous, and it is easy to see all the features of insanity that it might arouse. It is clear that this idea normally creates an irrational panic, not only in those who are opposed to it, but also in those who might accept it. One of the manifestations of this panic is the concept of a State that merges with the individuals, or of a merger of the individuals with the social, that is, a regressive concept of the supersession of the social.

To reject the social from the perspective of the establishment of a purely convergent relation among “beings” is to want to supersede the social by ignoring it. Rejecting social classes does not negate their existence. To the contrary, it is on the basis of their antagonistic existence that one must understand their negation.

The rejection of the existence of capitalism, of classes, and of social relations, is what necessarily leads to this identity-based construction that is The Coming Insurrection. We have demonstrated that the tendency to reject the real lies at the root of all identity, because an identity does not perceive the real but only its own existence as identity. It therefore affirms itself by rejecting the existence of everything that is not itself.

Rejecting the existence of capitalism, however, will not make it disappear. And this very rejection has its roots in the reality of the capitalist world, and particularly in its reality as a class society.

The lament of the middle classes (a realist song)

In reality, the identity that understands itself as universal, and in principle without identity, is a particular social class: the upper middle class of the West. It has no identity because it is the standard social class, the abstract referent for all the other classes and therefore Man in general. This is what is called “universalism”. It is in fact this that is described, without ever being named, by The Coming Insurrection.

Naturally, it is also towards this class (and against it) that The Coming Insurrection directs its discourse.

It is this class which perceives society only as a “vague aggregate” of institutions and individuals, a “definitive abstraction”.

It is this class that sees only police and rioting youth in the entire life of the banlieues.

It is precisely for this class that working means negotiating and selling at the best price what is no longer “labor power” but cognitive and relational competence, and logically suffers from this, its way of work.

It is this class that cultivates its precious and problematic Ego with so much personal development, yoga and psychoanalysis.

It is this class that suffers from “scholastic castration” and dreams in its infancy of burning down its university because it is the necessary path of its integration, and does not do so precisely for the same reason.

It is also this class that, surrounded by commodities concerning which it certainly wants to remain oblivious to the fact that they had to be produced, thinks that industrial labor is obsolete, blue collar workers unnecessary, and the economy is henceforth “virtual”.

It is only this class that exists politically, it is this class that is concerned with the environment and votes democratically. It is also the class from which many of the young people who constitute the black blocs mobilized against all the G20s of the earth are recruited.

Finally, it is this class that is “the class that negates all classes”, not because they will disappear but because they will always exist. This does not mean that we have to expel this class from the field of struggles, but only shows that now identity can be situated outside of a socially determined world.

“The joy of feeling a common power”

If this text has any usefulness, it lies in the fact that it might be able to arouse a little more mistrust towards the groups that we have formed. We need to come together. But all too often the saying, “birds of a feather flock together”, has a tendency to be inverted. It is not a matter of refusing to be like anyone else but of not allowing an identity to seize control over us.

We should not, for example, allow an identity to put words into our mouths, or allow ourselves to be seduced by the promise of obtaining a greater cohesiveness, at the price of renouncing our critical faculties, than we would be capable of generating ourselves. We must also mistrust cohesiveness. Nothing is more cohesive or better organized than a crystal, the last stage of mineralization. And nothing is more dead.

Today, the identity promoted by The Coming Insurrection is manifested among other things by the multiplication of its words in so many mouths: one hears of “friendships”, “body”, “flux”, “self-organization”, one knows what they are saying, and one no longer understands anything. You cannot establish a common language with parrots.

But it is not just The Coming Insurrection: if I have spoken specifically about that book, it is because it is sufficiently explicit and coherent, and also so well-known that it can be the starting point for a collective discussion. There are other identities: for example, the ones for which the phrases, “class struggle” and “social war” are not questions to be posed but rather slogans that are shouted in order to better distinguish one’s own identity from the identity of one’s competitors. The struggle between identities literally has no end.

It is clear that no isolated group can abstract itself from the world and realize communism in its own little niche. This does not prevent us, and this is what we are doing now, from seeking anti-hierarchical practices, questioning our modes of belonging, etc. And we are also conscious of the fact that our own efforts could crystallize into the straightjacket of identity.

One can participate in a group without therefore identifying with it. The function of a group should be that of giving the greatest possible autonomy to those who participate in it, allowing the development of their abilities. Emotional over-investment in a group too often ends up creating dependencies, and creating charismatic leaders.

A group is not an end in itself. Friendship is not necessary in a group. We can associate provisionally for a particular task, and understand our association in the light of this purpose, and the group can exist only with this precise goal in mind, without therefore encroaching on other terrains. There are people who are our friends, with whom we do nothing but share some good times, and there are others with whom we associate to perform a task, to carry out a project, and who do not have to be our friends. Communism is not the community. After the goals for which the group was formed are no longer pertinent, there is no point in its continued existence.

A group formed for particular goals can even allow itself to have “leaders”, employed for specific tasks. To navigate a ship it is imperative to have a helmsman: it is a question of coordination. On the other hand, one can do without a captain and arrive at joint decisions concerning the ship’s day-to-day operations, decide the ship’s destination, etc.

We have a spontaneous tendency to overestimate our groups, and when a group is marginal this overestimation is even more intense. This is an essential mechanism of the reinforcement of identity. To detect it and to mistrust it is already to have begun to deter its further development.

Furthermore, the identity-based self-overestimation of marginal groups (which can simply mean “small groups”) leads them to become even more marginalized, transforming them into useful scarecrows for society as a whole. Some punks, for instance, are busy consolidating footholds in mainstream culture. And this is not a strategic error on the part of identities, but is produced socially: one ends up becoming one’s own caricature in order to exist in accordance with the way one is socially expected to exist.

To form a group, knowing that one is nothing but a part of a larger whole, amidst which one exists in the same circumstances as one’s enemies, that one exists in an open-ended world, rather than one that is polarized by the requirements of a particular narrative, is a basis upon which one can try to form groups that are not imprisoned within identities. To participate in struggles that allow one to act on this basis would be a good start. For my part, I think I saw the broad outlines of such a phenomenon in the “AG in struggle” on the Rue Servan in Paris in 2006.4

In any event, it is clear that we are instead often being socially driven towards the prison of identity. One can only hope that the first stirrings of a prison break can be set in motion by calling attention to this tendency, by making it visible where it is in effect. To completely rid ourselves of it is one of the goals of a communist revolution.

Alain C.

Author’s note: For other considerations relating to this topic, especially concerning “the Tarnac Affair” and its fallout, one may refer to the text, Contribution aux discussions sur la repression antiterroriste [Contribution to the Discussions concerning Anti-terrorist Repression], available on the Internet. I unequivocally stand by what I said in that text and I have therefore refrained from addressing the same issues in this essay.

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Translated in December 2017 from the Spanish translation entitled, “La insurrección que viene, construcción identitaria y alternativa existencial”.

Source of the Spanish translation: https://infokiosques.net/IMG/pdf/iqv-construccion-identitaria-y-alternativa-existencial.pdf

Original French text: “L’Insurrection qui vient, construction identitaire et alternative existentielle”. Available online at: https://infokiosques.net/spip.php?article766

  • 1. A reference to the novel by Dino Buzzati, in which the protagonist, a soldier, spends his whole life in a fortress in the middle of the desert awaiting the outbreak of a war against the Tartars that never takes place. [Spanish translator’s note.]
  • 2. The proposed legislation known as the First Employment Contract, which sought to modify the conditions of new members of the labor force through a contract that was favorable for the employers and contrary to the interests of the workers. [Spanish translator’s note.]
  • 3. The thirty years from 1945 to 1975, the post-war era of “Fordism” and the “Welfare State” [American translator’s note].
  • 4. A movement against the First Employment Contract and “precarity”. AG=General Assembly. For a selection of texts on this movement, in French, see: https://libcom.org/library/chroniques-de-la-lutte-contre-le-cpe [American translator’s note].