On top of a volcano - Jacques Philipponneau and René Riesel

On top of a volcano - Jacques Philipponneau and René Riesel

This unabridged version of an article published in Le Monde on December 4, 2014 features reflections on the meaning of the recent wave of protests and riots that have swept France over the last year (2014) in response to accelerated industrial and commercial development projects, in the context of a worldwide environmental and social crisis, observing that “we are witnessing the birth of a conception of life that is hostile to the one that is imposed by domination”.

On Top of a Volcano – Jacques Philipponneau and René Riesel

To make this claim now is to state the obvious: World-society is plunging headlong in its crisis. Never before in history has a society foreseen so precisely the agenda of its downfall. From the extent of global warming to the depletion of natural resources, from the generalized poisoning of the planet to the certainty of future Fukushimas, we are provided with a monthly report composed of details concerning the general outlines and the timing of the inevitable. The population is now used to this. The State and its green auxiliaries are trying to pacify the population, because this was their task: better days will come after an unpleasant but inevitable period of adaptation. The “de-growthers” appeal to the State to impose the necessary restrictions and the pertinent re-education with respect to the return of happier times.

All of this has gone down the drain in less than a decade.

No one foresaw the speed of the expansion of the geopolitical chaos linked to the world war for the control of natural resources (oil, uranium, arable land …), the Somalization that spread from Africa to Afghanistan, and above all the extent and the rapidity, concerning which the financial crisis of 2008 had only provided us with a brief glimpse, of the social disintegration unleashed by the globalization of the economy. For a system that is trying to manage the chaos with no other intention than the preservation of its interests, however, all of this would be a minor annoyance were not for the fact that, at the same time, the consciousness has developed which grasps the fact that the irresistible activity of the economic-industrial complex is only making the disaster worse, and that nothing can be expected from the State, a cancerous excrescence swarming with parasitic technocratic, corrupt or mafia castes, who can be expected not to place any obstacles in the path of this race to destruction, for which reason they have been reduced to their primary function: the practice of the monopoly of violence.

All these questions are now in the streets; anyone can see this for themselves, and they penetrate into all the layers of this society that is completely dissolving. No one can escape it and this is what is of most concern to the State, rather than the catastrophe that is rapidly approaching.

A century of betrayals

Domination, which has brought its very concept to the summum in the unitary convergence of the State, the economy and the communications media, dedicates its heavy artillery to making sure that there is no other alternative, that the die has been cast, that we have to adapt or perish, that there is no way out except to manage the catastrophe, and that those who provoked the catastrophe and who continue to fuel its fires are the people who are most capable of undertaking its management. It is as if a murderer were to boast that he is the only person qualified to perform the autopsy on his victim. And this is not just a metaphor: in the case of Rémi Fraisse, 21 years old, he was killed by a riot policeman, whose mobilization was backed up by a socialist government that thereby celebrated one hundred years of betrayals; nor is it merely a metaphor in the case of the 43 Mexican students handed over by the police to the torturers of the drug cartels, nor is it merely a metaphor in the case of the independent journalists assassinated in Putin’s Russia (anyone can extend this list, ad libitum).

The political personnel are beginning to be assailed by doubts concerning the permanence of their status, because they know that they are ruling from atop a volcano (in this China that enjoys the admiration of all those responsible for maintaining order in the world, the budget for domestic security is larger than the military budget) and that today more than ever it is necessary to gag, conceal, and silence any opposition against the established order that is even minimally serious, that is, any opposition that seriously considers this same personnel to be unnecessary.

The fact that the victims have above all been young people can only appear strange to those who were never young. These young people who have been condemned to be integrated into the commodity order and a dematerialized survival, trained to sell themselves to the highest bidder, in order to rid them of any attitudes of solidarity, or to cause them to recognize themselves in the solitary monad of the capitalist utopia, are beginning to dialectically grasp the fact that they will never have access to the feast of fictitious abundance, that there will not even be a feast, and that if there is a feast its offerings will be indigestible, something that the most refractory among them have always known and said. Now, all these young people are acceding to lucidity (although somewhat later than their counterparts in neighboring Mediterannean countries) with such vigor that there is no lack of people who are trying to discredit them because of their “violence”, even though their actions are legitimately defensive and largely symbolic. How should they be characterized?

As struggles known as “anti-industrial”, directed against the excessively absurd projects to eradicate anything that has still been spared the artificialization of life and false needs (a few natural zones that at least to some extent have remained outside the reach of industrialization), because these projects inflict a shared sense of irreparable loss. This is something that has been admitted by a myriad of protesters.

Although the ingenuous nonviolent and participatory intentions of the young rebels might at first seem to be a cause for amusement, it will be admitted that this amusement did not take long to dissipate thanks to the scorn of the leaders and the violence of power. We leave to the reactionary Versaillaise who are now spouting calls for repression, and to the patronizing attitudes of those who have accommodated themselves to the way things are, snide comments about the outlandish costumes, the strange disguises and the vacillations of these young people. These are the facts: even though in a minority, these youths have segregated themselves from society. Whether they choose it or just endure it, they will have no future in it, and furthermore, they do not even want a future in it, they have nothing to lose, if they are going to live they have to live now. This part of the combative youth has made it clear that the State is superfluous, that the economy does not come before life, that the intensity of human relations has priority over technological artificiality, that all hierarchy is detestable no matter how militant it may be, that media stars and celebrities are even more detestable, that concrete solidarity among all those who struggle is obligatory, regardless of their position. That no one should allow themselves to be fooled: we are witnessing the birth of a conception of life that is hostile to the one that is imposed by domination.

When two conceptions of life that are so opposed confront one another, the inevitability of the central conflict of the times to come becomes obvious: the conflict that will pit the fanatics of the programmed apocalypse against those who have not resigned themselves to the idea that human history will end on a dungheap.

Jacques Philipponneau and René Riesel
November 5, 2014

Translated in December 2014 from the Spanish translation of the unabridged French original provided to the American translator by Miguel Amorós, with minor revisions based on a perusal of the original French text. Spanish translation published in the Spanish journal, Argelaga, No. 5, Fall 2014, under the title, “Un Estado que rige encima de un vólcan” (https://argelaga.wordpress.com/2014/10/15/5-otono-2014/).

Original French text available online at: http://www.legrandsoir.info/un-etat-qui-regne-au-dessus-du-volcan.html.

An edited and revised version of the original French text was published under the title, “Au-dessus du volcan”, in the newspaper, Le Monde, on December 4, 2014.