A Vaneigem text from April 2023 on unrest in France, the yellow vests and a great deal more. Translated by David Wise.
WE'RE FED UP!
LET'S LIBERATE LIFE! LET'S FREE THE EARTH!
What is at stake now is our destiny as human beings.
A merciless confrontation opposes the State and the global authorities of profit as against a people, whose lives are reduced to a surface of sorrow under pressure from a dominant rapaciousness.
It is in the interest of the State to drag out this conflict, because repression is its ultimate function that allows it to exist. At the same time. more and more of us are sensing this, feeling a mixture of elation and anxiety. We are entering a time in the course of which we are going to make a crucial choice. We are faced with an option that will determine our fate. It is simple:
Resign ourselves to the desertification of the planet where we work for our own destruction.
Or, we engage in a struggle for the sovereignty of human life and its values.
Are we committed? "No, we aren't" - despite much preaching and humanitarian exhortations! There's no more time for goodwill. It is a fait accompli.
The Yellow Vests (Gilets Jaunes) have initiated a festive occupation of streets and hearts. It affects millions of human beings who are awakening from half a century of lethargy, rediscovering a humanity which had subsequently been stripped bare by the reign of the commodity. Driven by an effect of passionate attraction, a people has woken up. This now living and breathing intelligence has revived the Enlightenment which revolutionary France in the late 18th century had illuminated throughout the world only to be obliterated and hidden away via the obscurantism of drunken morons.
Sociologists will find a thousand explanations for this psycho-social galvanisation more unexpected, more surprising than May 1968, whose "podromes" (i.e. chronic neurological disorders combining sudden rushes of euphoria and despair TN) are known. We will point the finger at the rising cost of living, recession, higher taxes. Corrosive boredom will be invoked, oozing resentment and aggressiveness, only to detect in the Yellow Vest "phenomenon" that a jubilant and ephemeral fever was breaking-out against the backdrop of a sordid ambient mediocrity, which after a time, plus one or two riots, was then promptly crushed.
That is not what happened. Not only was the traditional scenario of the defeated insurrection not repeated, but the blow of the ephemeral suffered an eclipse as unusual as it was remarkable. A vast current of agitation has consolidated its foundations. It developed under the contemptuous gaze of conservatism and progressivism. The far right which hoped to devour it, broke its teeth there. Nor has Leftism gotten anywhere unable to hide its disappointment at not finding traces, in this disparate horde of the proletariat that the Left's policies had also led to bankruptcy.
What came out of the tumult? a few flights of anger. No programme, except a preliminary and rudimentary warning that curiously, no insurrection of the past, however radical, had had the precaution to adopt. It was clear, unambiguous, far-reaching warning: "No leaders, no self-appointed delegates, no representatives of political and trade union apparatus. People first!"
That this resolution did not vary an inch is less an expression of moral firmness than an indication of deeper anchoring. It will be necessary to agree one day or another the following: that the substance of insurrections which, in the four corners of the globe, blaze forth, extinguish themselves, only to resume more beautifully, is nothing other than life and its conscience.
Mobilizations aimed at improving survival conditions haven't disappeared, they simply aren't enough. They are outdated. This is why, like a music of the living in search of harmony, the feeling of "being there" spreads irresistibly. Starting from a handful of "acculturated nobodies", it has reached the dimension of a universal people, no longer needing vests, colours, watchwords to affirm and refine its determination.
These are people invested with no mission, having no eschatological pretensions. It's a sudden consciousness assuming a massive presence among beings whose lives have been usurped, for whom autonomy was merely a lure and humanity a meaningless word. It's like an ever-reborn wave washing away the indignity to which we have been sentenced setting out to recover nothing else but a natural self and that vital impulse is present in all.
The class struggle was the historical form taken in the epoch of industrialized capitalism, the desire for emancipation that slaves have always erected against masters.
The class struggle is inseparable from the class consciousness that gives the proletarian the weapons necessary to free oneself from proletarianization. The bureaucratization of the workers' movement and consumerist colonization has only apparently resulted in the liquidation of the proletariat and its project, that of a classless society.
In today's insurrections of everyday life, egalitarian freedoms are embodied which slaves never had the happiness to access.
Now the yoke of the masters, which broke their loins, is unravelling. It can no longer resist the implosion of the commodity system, the crumbling of Power, the forfeiture of authority, the unbridling of crazy money. A world is crumbling, which was devoted to death. It's up to us to completely evacuate it by eradicating the cult of decomposing carrion.
Creating and multiplying our oases everywhere becomes the only choice as impoverishment progresses, as we announce little steps like the looting of supermarkets, the sabotage of payment machines, the fire resulting from the kicked-in tax offices, the great pyre of the bills. Let the Power of the possessed take over the fire that was started! As for us, who desire only the fires of life, we welcome with a placid realism an observation that plays in our favour: the quantity of having - which defines survival - gives way to the quality of being which is the foundation of life. In other words, the mercantile society collapses, leaving it to human society to remove the rubble.
Unless the Party of death convinces us to accompany it in its downfall! Ten thousand years of self-destruction is it soluble in a drop of full and complete life? Do you doubt it? But why? For the first time in history, even self-destruction collapses from weariness. Death is becoming more annoying than scary. The life that lies ahead of you ignores fear. It opens with a present whereby everything is possible.
Spring cleaning shows that spring is for all seasons. How goes the Challenge when we see the struggles for the liberation of the earth and for the right to live on it swept away, like straw foetuses, along with ideological and religious beliefs of which only eviscerated carcasses remain. If Power still takes the trouble to agitate and clash with them, the reason is that, forced to divide and rule, he must lend them enough credibility to enlist them in his scapegoating strategy.
Clientelism has turned conservatism and progressivism into interchangeable commodities. Only yesterday their antagonism made them plausible. So go untangle the issues at stake in the upcoming elections, when public opinion hears fascistic populism demanding the joint freedom of not getting vaccinated together with drowning migrants; whilst leftist populism advocates obligatory vaccination, as if it did not know that this approach paved the way for Chinese-style Social Credit. Is it not in the same vein of confused ideas that ecology is begging for cash protection from the very authorities that exterminate them? The whining of violent policewomen are sweet to the ears of the wretched who excite them. What do you hope governments will do in the pay of financial mafias determined to empty the funds of drawer upon drawer of the Public Good that had been filled up courtesy of past workers' struggles?
Paradoxically, as we wade through a no man's land of night and fog, everything becomes clear. We are the emanation of life, and we stake our claim as such. Our enemies are the party of death. As formidable as their arsenal of war is, all it takes is a living remnant interfering in their mechanical behaviour to destabilize them undermining their often bent, quirky ways.
They have weapons that make them slowly wither away when they shoot. We have no other weapons than life itself. They have the gratuitousness of the inexhaustible. Their power is limitless, because they themselves are weapons that do not kill.
It has escaped no one's notice that the breath of great social struggles dissipates the most odious prejudices. The desire for emancipation goes beyond the old things we are full of, it does not, repeat does not erase, it unravels them.
In the political Landerneau, there is concern about the unhealthy exaltations of neo-Nazi folklore. (Landerneau originally referred to the racket & noise made by residents of the Brittany town to mock widows remarrying too soon! TN) Fascistic populism has become the elective target of leftist aperitifs where we have forgotten the purpose of Berneri. (A truly principled, learned Italian anarchist machine-gunned down in1937 by Communist party thugs in Barcelona during the Spanish Revolution. TN) Only the anti-capitalist struggle can oppose fascism. The trap of anti-fascism means the abandonment of the principles of social revolution. The revolution must be won on the social terrain and not on the military field. Where we forget, in the process, how many of these brave militants recommended voting for an early treat, tampering with batons, in order to block the way to one dilapidated Obersturmführer that run the competing shop next door.
Power has always fed in us an existential hell where the repression of vital impulses lets off steam whilst in the reflexes of death. Wars, riots, religions, ideologies offered hatred to self and others are also amply sufficient outlets for life to appear useless, worthless, non-existent.
The absence of large-scale conflicts, consumerist pacification, pettiness, the growth of profit, the bureaucratic sleepiness of revolutions, the boneless garbage around what is happening everywhere summarize mafia ideologies and religions, having snatched death from its gluttonous immoderations, to the outrageous devouring that had been granted to power right up to the hitlero-stalinist hecatombs. The majesty of the Grim Reaper having been somewhat dethroned and devalued on the market, we began to talk about life as an unusual object unearthed by an archaeologist.
The totalitarian democracy established by the dictatorship of free trade has been forced to patch up the fear that no hierarchical power can do without. After the aftermath of a panic prompted by the tragicomic management of coronavirus, after the flop of the imported nuclear terror from Ukraine, after a far too uncertain invasion of aliens, we would have gladly fallen back on the far-right boil that had been used by Mitterrand to clean up his Petain-ist fistula of surgically created body organs, though the abscess had been lanced a long time ago. It is therefore a terror lacking in ideology, a blind repression, a gang rape, a horror without a controlling name that the police now resort to representing the state and supra-state.
We are the prey of a fascism booted, helmeted, motorized; a bludgeoning, raping, blind, killer. It does not belong to a far-right party, even if it applauds its exploits. Its barbarism bears the seal of legality. It is the mode of expression of government militias and globalists. Fascism is the armed wing of the party of death. It is par excellence the cult of decomposing carrion. It collects tithes.
Saved by resentment and frustrations for which they take revenge by beating and massacring what passes within reach, the police have some reason to laugh at our indignation, our humanitarian protests, our petitions, our books of grievances.
Why? Would they be deprived of sneering when they see us begging for clemency from mechanized puppets with which they secretly enraged transforming them into a vile mop?
What they are feverishly waiting for is not to be loved, but to be hated. Their hatred of Self and Life feeds on the fear they experience and spread. The conflicts of the past do not lack clarity. The enemy made sense, he was the nazi, the communist, the invader, the barbarian and came from elsewhere. But to hit a crowd of walkers, what reason will the baton invoke? As if, by the most unlikely of chances, the baton happens to think?
This lack of reason is in itself a question. Failure to reply refers it back to the applicant. It may be that it does about-turns and turns on him, that it teases him with its own absurdity. But how long will it take to get the troops to raise their batons in the air and surrender?
The other solution is to respond, but not to provide the expected answer. What is the hoped-for response? The desecration, the rejection, the contempt, the combat dress, the descent into the arena? One behaviour would be to lose our humanity by advancing all odds entering the realms of barbarism.
Since the expected reaction is: "We will make your existence impossible", let us decree, the complete reverse: "We're going to make your life possible." Not out of a spirit of provocation, but because we remain faithful to the human project that is ours.
It would be illusory, even ridiculous, to bet on a work of dissociation regarding the police officer, which leaves him a chance of recovering his humanity by deserting the machine he grinds his living out of, and of which he himself is victim. But what do we risk by telling him – from afar and sheltered from his sadomasochistic reflexes – that we do not want forgiveness or retaliation? That we only want life to be for all, without exclusion.
We have no message to send, we have an experiment to conduct continuously. It is up to us to continue the occupation of our land, to self-manage our water, to found everywhere in the world of micro-societies where assemblies allow everyone to express their own free expression, desires, their refinement, their harmonization – the Zapatista community cum experience (in the province of Chiapas, Mexico during the 1990s) shows that it is possible.
Dare to speak of utopia and chimeras as France regains the momentum that freed it from the Ancien Regime as communities are now emerging before our eyes where those living authentically embody ideas of equality, liberty, fraternity, which have been emptied of their substance?
Our revolution will be that of enjoyment against appropriation, of mutual aid against predation, of creation against work.
Conceding nothing on the invariance of our human project weaves an existential and social cohesion which has the means and ingenuity to practice demilitarized guerrilla warfare subject to the constant harassment of a rotting state totalitarianism.
Those who bet on our shortness of breath ignore that the breath of life is inexhaustible. Running instead wherever their machines are destroyed, the oppressors believe they wont choke - because they don't even have breath to lose!
We are entering the era of self-management and the reversal of perspective.
We have known life only under the icy shadow of death. We have not done anything without thinking that our enterprise was vain and foolish.
France, by rising up, opens up radically new paths for the world. Creativity, the poetics of the "people of the basins" (The Earth Uprising people opposing the huge concrete dams in Sainte-Soline. TN) is part of an autonomous self-defence movement of the living called upon to to grow, to federate, to multiply, not by voluntarism but because it is either that or mummify in an environment without insects and birds.
We are neither Sisyphus nor Prometheus, we refuse sacrifices, starting with the sacrifice of our existence. We are individuals aware that life and land have been theirs; data with instructions for the use of which they, as the only humans, are the only holders.
Life in search of humanity has all the rights, but now, thankfully, without a sense of duty. This is the reversal of perspective that frees us from the heaven of the Gods and ideas, and puts us back on our feet, well anchored on earth.
We have reached a point of rupture with a past that mechanized us (militaristic conduct is one of them). We are the starting point of a present that will not regress any longer. We are the rebirth of a life that nothing has managed to stifle and which now claims its sovereignty. Look! "We were a handful of beggars, eating a gratin dish of next to nothing at all. We - millions of us - discover an intelligence of the living that keeps us free of the dead intelligence who managed us like things. We are no longer a commodity with no need to boast about it to make it known. Let's start with the basics: no more schooling subservient to the market, no more distorted agriculture, no more orders to give or receive"!
We must stop thinking in terms of victory and defeat like those living in barracks. The militarization of bodies and consciences, we've had enough of it!
What frightens Power is less the large number of opponents than the quality of life they claim. During the old strikes, the bosses were less afraid of the numerical scale of the movement than the deep joy that animated the insurgents. They had the means to overcome it thanks to the usual blackmail of "no work, no wages"!.
While capitalism today announces bluntly that the rise in the price of food and the fall in wages is inevitable, let me be told how traditional blackmail has less chance of getting a general return to work! On the other hand, it is understandable that the State – "held to enrich its suppliers"– in order to hide its social bankruptcy, is there only to beat up the people whose presence terrifies the state. But for how long?
Let us not be accused of wanting to bring down the state. It falls by itself and it falls on us.
Its devastating uselessness puts us on the right track via the creation of self-defence zones of the living, the programmed disappearance of the goods it once provided us with when it cared about a citizen community. It's not all about dying, you have to live well! Nothing resists the self-defence of the living.
There is not a single form of government that hasn't made the misfortune of the supposed people benefiting from its benefits. Barely out of the worst dictatorships, we have inherited the best, if we can thus describe an economic totalitarianism in which politics loses its footing so much is poured out and at the end of the journey, there's the excrement of what made up the glory of the past – "Aristocracy, democracy, oligarchy, imperialism, monarchy, autocracy and all in tutti quanti.
It is from this sewer that our enemies claim to be waging against us an all-out war"? You can see it! We are able to strike, to disappear and to reappear where we are least expected. We have learned from the traditional guerrillas that their failure was less due to repressive violence than from their own internal organization imitating somewhat the hierarchical structure of the dominant world. Remember the horror of the French elites in front of the Yellow Vests": "Where are the leaders, the leaders with whom to discuss"? "No"! There were none. Let's make sure there never will be"!
Self-management is an experiment that proved its viability in the revolutionary Spain of 1936, before being crushed by the Communist Party. It is the organization by the people for the satisfaction of the needs and desires of those who compose it. Its theoretical principles originate in the experience of communities, where fighting together teaches an art of agreements and discordances that are not foreign to the musical resonances of individual existence within nature. Wherever arenas of self-defence of the living appear, the intelligence of the heart prevails over the intelligence of the head teaching us to reinvent everything.
The most radical thing that May 1968 bequeathed to us was the project of factory occupations where the proletarians began to consider making them work for the benefit of all (eventually by reconverting them). The Communist Party violently opposed it, and was its last victory before its final collapse.
Parasitic work and stock market speculation have forced the arenas of socially useful production to disappear, but the will to occupy places where our roots are the roots of the world hasn't. Flexibility, recovering the streets, squares, communes, it is a fight that is fought at the base. It's intolerable that food poisoned by the food industry spoils ambient air and enters our kitchens where we have the pleasure of concocting healthy and tasty dishes. The land is a place of human enjoyment, not a jungle where predation and appropriation reign. Our freedoms are nourishing. We are witnessing the rebirth of a life that is only beginning and doesn't know that there is an end.
We only have a better world to offer.
Raoul Vaneigem April 5, 2023
(Translated. Dave Wise. Easter 2023)