Chapter 1

In Paris, 1848, the revolution was a holiday without a beginning or an end.

Bakunin

Why on earth did these dear children shoot Montanelli in the legs? Wouldn’t it have been better to have shot him in the mouth?

Of course it would. But it would also have been heavier. More vindictive and sombre. To lame a beast like that can have a deeper, more meaningful side to it which goes beyond revenge, beyond punishing him for his responsibility, fascist journalist and bosses’ lackey that he is.

To lame him forces him to limp, makes him remember. Moreover, laming is a more agreeable pastime than shooting in the mouth with pieces of brain squirting out through the eyes.

The comrade who sets off in the fog every morning and walks into the stifling atmosphere of the factory, or the office, only to see the same faces: the foreman, the timekeeper, the spy of the moment, the Stakhanovite-with-seven-children-to-support, feels the need for revolution, the struggle and the physical clash, even a mortal one. But he also wants to bring himself some joy now, right away. And he nurtures this joy in his fantasies as he walks along head down in the fog, spends hours on trains or trams, suffocates in the pointless goings on of the office or amidst the useless bolts that serve to hold the useless mechanisms of capital together.

Remunerated joy, weekends off or annual holidays paid by the boss is like paying to make love. It seems the same but there is something lacking.

Hundreds of theories pile up in books, pamphlets and revolutionary papers. We must do this, do that, see things the way this one said or that one said, because they are the true interpreters of the this or that ones of the past, those in capital letters who fill up the stifling volumes of the classics.

Even the need to keep them close at hand is all part of the liturgy. Not to have them would be a bad sign, would be suspect. It is useful to keep them handy in any case. Being heavy they could always be thrown in the face of some nuisance. Not a new, but nevertheless a healthy confirmation of the validity of the revolutionary texts of the past (and present).

There is never anything about joy in these tomes. The austerity of the cloister has nothing to envy of the atmosphere one breathes in their pages. Their authors, priests of the revolution of revenge and punishment, pass their time weighing up blame and retribution.

Moreover, these vestals in jeans have taken a vow of chastity, so they also expect and impose it. They want to be rewarded for their sacrifice. First they abandoned the comfortable surroundings of their class of origin, then they put their abilities at the disposal of the disinherited. They have grown accustomed to using words that are not their own and to putting up with dirty tablecloths and unmade beds. So, one might listen to them at least.

They dream of orderly revolutions, neatly drawn up principles, anarchy without turbulence. If things take a different turn they start screaming provocation, yelling loud enough for the police to hear them.

Revolutionaries are pious folk. The revolution is not a pious event.