6. The Terrain of Stuggle

Submitted by libcom on July 28, 2005

Against Domestication 6.

The Terrain of Struggle

None of this can take on its full meaning unless there is a simultaneous refusal of all obsolete forms of struggle. Like the May '68 movement but more so, the lycée movement emphasized very clearly that staying within the old forms of struggle inevitably leads to certain defeat. It is now becoming generally accepted that demonstrations, marches, spectacles and shows don't lead anywhere. Waving banners, putting up posters, handing out leaflets, attacking the police are all activities which perpetuate a certain ritual -- a ritual wherein the police are always cast in the role of invincible subjugators. The methods of struggle therefore must be put through a thorough analysis because they present an obstacle to the creation of new modes of action. And for this to be effective, there has to be a refusal of the old terrain of struggle -- both in the workplace and in the streets. As long as revolutionary struggle is conducted not on its own ground but on the terrain of capital, there can be no significant breakthrough, no qualitative revolutionary leap. This is where we must concentrate our attention; it is a question which has to be faced now if revolution is not to stagnate and destroy itself, a setback which could take years to recover from. If we are to successfully abandon the old centres of struggle, it will require a simultaneous movement towards the creation of new modes of life. What's the point of occupying the factories -- like car factories for example -- where production must be stopped anyway ? The cry goes up : "Occupy the factories and manage them ourselves !" So all the prisoners of the system are supposed to take over their prisons and begin the self-management of their own imprisonment. A new social form is not founded on the old, and only rarely in the past do we find civilizations superimposed on one another. The bourgeoisie triumphed because it staged the battle on its own terrain, which is the cities. But in our present situation this can only be helpful to the emergence of communism which is neither a new society nor a new mode of production. Today humanity can launch its battle against capital not in the city, nor in the countryside, but outside of both : [17] hence the necessity for communist forms to appear which will be truly antagonistic to capital, and also rallying points for the forces of revolution. Since the advent of May '68, capital has been obliged to take account of the fact that revolution had presented itself again as a vital imperative, a necessity. In response, the counter-revolution was compelled to adapt and remodel itself (remembering that it has no existence except in relation to revolution). But however much it tries by its usual methods to limit the development of its adversary, it can never totally succeed, because revolution will always present itself as real, and therefore as irrational. This irrationality is its fundamental characteristic. Whatever is rational in relation to the established order can be absorbed and recuperated. If revolution operates on the same terrain as its adversary, it can always be halted. It cannot rise up; it is thwarted in its most passionate desire, which is to realize its own project and to accomplish it on its own ground.

The attaining of a human community must be the goal towards which revolution moves. The revolutionary movement must therefore reflect within itself the same purpose and aim. The methods provided by class society lead us away from this goal; by their very nature they are inhuman, and it is therefore not possible to use them. Thus it is absurd to want to penetrate the structures of the established order to make them function in the interests of the revolutionary movement. Those who operate in this way are labouring under the mystification that the historical project approaches its truth and its end in capital. That mystification which presents the human being as inessential, not determinant, and useless has to be exposed. In the capitalist system humans have in effect become superfluous, but to the extent that humanity has preserved an unbroken human consistency from its earliest origins, it cannot be said to have been destroyed as long as the idea of revolt remains alive, and provided also that young people are not totally immobilized by domestication. All is still possible. In every case, struggle tends to revive the human essence which is preserved in each individual; struggle takes us out of the trap of perceiving others only as their reified outward appearance. Even where an individual has attained a high degree of reification and been transformed into an organic automaton of capital, there is still the possibility that the whole construction could break apart. Here we would do well to follow an old piece of advice from Marx : It's not enough to make the chains visible, they must become shameful. Each individual should experience a crisis. In conflicts with the police, the impulse should be not only to eliminate a repressive force which presents an obstacle to the communist movement but also to bring down the system, provoking in the minds of the police a sense of human resurgence.

This can never happen if the old methods of direct confrontation continue to be used; we have got to find new methods, such as treating all institutions with contempt and ridicule [18] by leaving them trapped and isolated in their own concerns. It would be absurd to theorize and make generalizations about this. But we can be certain of one thing : it has proved effective in the past, and it will be again, but we must invent a host of other different modes of action. The essential point is to understand that the terrain and methods of struggle must be changed; this necessity has been understood in a limited and sometimes negative way by people who abandon everything and go on the roads, expressing their desire to leave the vicious circle of struggles that go on in the day-to-day world.

The leftists persist in their well known cycle of provocation-repression-subversion which is all supposed to bring about revolution at some precise time in the future. But this conception of revolution is totally inadmissible because it means sacrificing men and women in order to mobilize others. Communist revolution does not demand martyrs because it does not need to make any demands. The martyr becomes the bait which attracts the followers. What would then be the use of a revolution that uses death as a bait in this way ? [19] But then there is always someone who dies at just the right time (or the victim's demise may even be "facilitated"), and someone else goes around shaking the cadaver in order to attract the revolutionary flies.

Since the communist revolution is the triumph of life, it cannot in any way glorify death, or seek to exploit it, since this would be putting itself once more on the terrain of class society. There are some who would compare or substitute "those who fell in the revolution" with those who died in the service of capital : but it's all just the same old carnival of carrion !

Revolution is never presented as having the scope of a necessary and also a naturally occurring phenomenon, and this misunderstanding has serious consequences. It always seems that revolution depends strictly on some group or other radiating true consciousness. We are faced today with the following alternatives : either there is actual revolution -- the whole process, from the formation of revolutionaries to the destruction of the capitalist mode of production -- or there is destruction, under one form or another of the human species. There is no other possibility. When revolution is unleashed there will be no need to justify what is happening; rather it will be a question of being powerful enough to avoid abuses and excesses. And this is possible only if individual men and women, before the revolutionary explosion, begin to be autonomous : since they don't need any leaders, they can gain mastery over their own revolt.

Obviously in the present circumstances people can only go so far in this direction; but the only way it has a chance of true realization is by rejecting that cannibalistic discourse which presents revolution as a settling of scores, as a physical extermination of one class or group of people by another. If communism really is a necessity for the human species, it has no need of such methods to impose itself.

In general, most revolutionaries doubt that revolution will ever come about, but in order to convince themselves that it will, they have to justify it to themselves in some way. This allows them to deal with the waiting, but it also masks the fact that most of the time manifestations of real revolution pass them by. To exorcise their doubt they resort to verbal violence (again a substitute), and are constantly engaged in desperate and obstinate proselytizing. The justification process works like this : as soon as they've made some recruits, this is taken as proof that the situation is favourable, and so the level of agitation must be stepped up, and so on and so on. According to this scheme of things, revolution means agitation which means bringing consciousness from outside. They haven't yet grasped the fact that revolution is accomplished precisely when there is no one left to defend the old order; revolution triumphs because there are no more adversaries. The point is that everything is going to be different afterwards, which is where the problem of violence again becomes relevant. The necessity for communism is a necessity which extends to all people. During the ferment of revolution this is a truth which will become evident in a more or less confused way. It does not mean that people will somehow be rid of all the old rubbish of the previous society overnight. It means that those who will be making the revolution will be people of the right as well as the left; thus when the superstructural elements of the capitalist system are destroyed and the global process of production halted, the presuppositions of capital will remain intact, and the old forms of behaviour and the old schemas will tend to reappear because it seems that each time humanity embarks on a new opportunity, a creation, it tends to wrap it up in the forms of the past and readapt it to the times. Certainly, the communist revolution will not develop in the same way as previous revolutions, but if its scope is limited to any degree, it will nonetheless still be part of the content of the post-revolutionary movement. The movement will tend to give new dimensions to the human community, reaffirming and strengthening what will have emerged during the course of revolution. It is at this stage, when things are difficult, that the old institutional forms can reappear, and some elements may want to reassert their privileges in a disguised form, and try to make solutions prevail that favour them. Others might want to reintroduce self-management. They still will not have understood that communism is not a mode of production, but a new mode of being.

This is also the time when the old practice of categorizing everything, so characteristic of all rackets, must bp eliminated once and for all. We have to understand that new things can spring up draped in the mantle of the past; it would be a major error to consider only these superficial semblances of the past to the exclusion of everything else. It's not a question of seeing the postrevolutionary movement as the apotheosis of immediate reconciliation, when by some miracle the oppressiveness of the past will abolish itself. Granted that the new mode of being will generate itself through effective struggle, the issue then becomes the modality of that struggle. Any sectarian or inquisitional spirit is lethal to the revolution -- which is all the more reason why the classical dictatorship is out of the question, since this would mean re-establishing a mode of being which is intrinsic to class society. The period of intermediate change cannot be transcended except through a diverse expression of liberation by multifarious human beings. This is the pressure which communism brings to bear. It is a pressure exerted by the great majority of human beings seeking to create the human community which will allow and enable them to remove all obstacles barring their way. This affirmation of life is what Marx had in mind when he said "if we assume man to be man, and his relation to the world to be a human one, then love can be exchanged only for love, trust for trust. . ." Violent clashes can only be exceptional.

Those who believe that what is required is a dictatorship have already conceded in their minds that human society will never be ready to grow towards communism. It is a long, painful and difficult road to that extraordinary realization that the mystification no longer holds, that the wandering of humanity was leading to its own destruction, and that this was largely due to the fact that it had entrusted its destiny to the monstrous, autonomized system of capital. [20] Men and women will come to realize that they themselves are the determining elements, and that they do not have to abdicate their power to the machine, and alienate their being in the false belief that this will lead to happiness.

The moment this point is reached, it's all over, and going back will be impossible. The entire representation of capital All collapse like a house of cards. People whose minds are free from capital will be able to find themselves and their fellow creatures as well. From this time onwards, the creation of a human community can no longer be halted.

Ideology, science, art and the rest, through the entire range of institutions and organizations act together to instill the belief that human beings are inessential and powerless to act. [21] More than this, they all enforce the idea that if we seem to have arrived at a particular stage of social evolution, it is because it could not have been otherwise from the very beginning when we first appropriated and developed technology. There is a certain fatality which surrounds technology : if we do not embrace it, we cannot progress. All we can do is remedy certain shortcomings, but we cannot escape the workings of the machine, which is this society itself. The trap has been closed, people have been immobilized, and the determining factor here is the representation of capital -- it represents itself (i.e. capital) as a rational social process, which gives rise to the feeling that the system can no longer be perceived as oppressive. In order to explain any negative aspects, capital simply invokes categories designated as "outside of capital".

The long habit of mind which has allowed human intelligence to be a host for the parasitical representation of capital has to be broken down. The mentality and behaviour of the servant (whose master is capital) must be eradicated. This need is now all the more urgent as the old dialectic of master and slave is tending to disappear in the process whereby even the slave -- the human being -- is becoming redundant.


[17] The old opposition between city and country clearly no longer exists. Capital has urbanized the planet; Nature has become mineralized (made inorganic). We are now seeing new conflicts between urban centres and those parts of the countryside where a few peasants still remain. Urban centres demand more and more water which means building numerous reservoirs at distances of fifty or even a hundred miles from the city. This leads to the destruction of good agricultural land as well as land for hunting and fishing; it also results in the peasants being deprived of water since all the sources are drawn off to fill reservoirs and channels. This conflict can affect the same person from two angles if he/she lives in the town and owns a second "house in the country". We can see now that the problem extends well beyond the question of the traditional peasantry; it now involves the global relationship of people to the natural world and a reconsideration of their actual mode of being.

[18] Which is how one would have to regard the actions of those American psychiatrists who voluntarily commit themselves to psychiatric clinics, thereby demonstrating the there is no system of knowledge capable of defining madness. (We might add that the production of actual madness is necessary to the existence of capital).

[19] Death has become an essential element in people's coming to consciousness of themselves, but such consciousness is transmitted only with great difficulty. The passage from the exterior to the interior is too laborious, but fortunately the expedients and shortcuts are there.

[20] A process described as "prosthesis" by Cesarano and Collu in Apocalisse et Rivoluzione (Dedalo, Bari, 1973). The book presents itself as "a manifesto for biological revolution" and no resumé could do justice to its great richness of thought. (The authors also take up the question of representation and symbolism in social relations. See note 7). Here are two passages which give a small insight into their position : The progressive thinkers who produced the MIT report (Man's Impact on the Global Environment, 1972) and also the propositions put forward by Mansholt all suggest that capital cannot survive unless it continually increases the volume of commodity production (the basis of its valorization process). But they are mistaken in this if their understanding of commodity is restricted to things. It doesn't matter whether the commodity form is a thing or "a person". In order for capital to continue its growth it requires only this : that within the process of circulation there must be a moment when one commodity of whatever kind assumes the task of exchanging itself for A in order to subsequently exchange itself with X. In theory this is perfectly possible, provided that constant capital, instead of being invested mainly in projects to manufacture objects, is devoted to projects designed to create corporate people ("social services", "personnel services"). (p. 82) Fiction (le fictif) reaches its final peak of coher ence when it is able to present itself as a complete representation and hence as an organization of appearances which is completely unreal; ultimately it is able to separate itself definitively from the concrete, to such a degree that it disappears altogether. (Thus fiction is the essence of all religions). The human species will be able to emancipate itself definitively from prosthesis and free itself from fiction and religion only when it openly recognizes itself as subjectively acting as an indissoluble part of the organic movement of nature in its global process. Biological revolution consists in reversing once and for all the relationship which has been a feature of all prehistory (i.e. all the period preceding the communist revolution), whereby the physical existence of the species is subordinated to the role of the social mechanism; it is the emancipation of organic subjectivity, the taming of the machine once and for all in whatever form it may appear. (p. 153)

[21] We are referring here not to the human being as an individual existing in a particular historical period, but as an invariant constant.