Alfredo M. Bonanno
L’utopia propulsiva, ‘ProvocAzione’ no. 1, January 1987, p.6
Il rifiuto delle armi, ‘ProvocAzione’ no.10, January 1988, p.10
Ma cose l’immaginario?, ‘ProvocAzione’ no.3, March 1987, p.6
Ma noi siamo moderni? ‘ProvocAzione’ no.20, May 1989, p.7
Prevalenza della pratica? ‘ProvocAzione’ no.13, April 1988, p.8
Il braccio armato della scienza, ‘ProvocAzione’ no.7, September 1987, p.8
La frattura morale, ‘ProvocAzione’ no.12, March 1988, p.7
La tirannia della debolezza, ‘ProvocAzione’ no.11, February 1988, p.5
Translated by Jean Weir
THE REFUSAL OF ARMS
BUT WHAT IS THE IMAGNARY
ARE WE MODERN?
THE PRIORITY OF PRACTICE
THE ARMED WING OF SCIENCE
THE MORAL SPLIT
THE TYRANNY OF WEAKNESS
THE REFUSAL OF ARMS
BUT WHAT IS THE IMAGNARY
ARE WE MODERN?
THE PRIORITY OF PRACTICE
THE ARMED WING OF SCIENCE
THE MORAL SPLIT
THE TYRANNY OF WEAKNESS
This is not the first time we find ourselves faced with a similar dilemma. How can we transcend the limitation of means? Reach out beyond the constriction of roles? Encounter those who have begun their individual insurrection but find their path obstructed by a pile of blunt instruments? Those who have decided to venture into the abyss and have become exigent, want to invent their own methods, draw them forth from the conditions they are constrained to live in against their will, now, as the bosses' calendar indicates the arrival of the third millennium. Those who want to dance with life in more than fleeting encounters, in the adventure of discovery that illuminates destruction in all its possibilities.
A contradiction emerges: in order to do this we need to activate the techniques they taught us with other ends in view. To read, write, analyze, discuss. But this time not to pass exams, get a job, acquire social status, cultivate the admiration of others. No, here the effort is exquisitely selfish. Not an accumulation of data, but ideas to stimulate other ideas, questions to contrast facts. Roads towards action to be explored. Paths to be forged or meandered along, as we learn to recognise monsters behind their disguise and experiment the best weapons to confront them with, those that enhance our indefatigable quest for freedom.
This is the perspective that we have given ourselves and where we believe others are venturing. That is why we have decided to set to work, shooting a shower of arrows into the unknown, aware that by their very form they risk turning up in the wrong place and violating the tranquillity of those who seek in the written word confirmation, truth, serenity, or simply an antidote to insomnia. However, we have decided to adventure into the unexplored.
Perhaps one or two will strike, encounter those who will take up the threads of the discourse, unravel them, re-elaborate them and in some way make them part of their own project of liberation, transforming them into active intervention.
The following articles were all published some years ago in the monthly paper ‘ProvocAzione’ (now out of print). We are now making them available to a wider readership, an invitation to question some of our certainties and examine more closely some of the commonplaces we take for granted.
Some of us have lived through similar moments.* The incredible thunderbolt of a propelling idea suddenly surges from the grey monotony of everyday life. A desire to be beyond the abyss, well beyond it.
Many have lived through this and systematically put it out of their minds. A tiny minority of old regulars at meetings and demos continue to practice the liturgy of the incredible within the enclosure of themselves, now convinced that the utopian proposal must come from rewriters of theories clever enough to climb mountains within the four walls of their own rooms.
The others are not even worth mentioning. Most of them had no inkling of what one was dreaming about. They casually confused possibilism with socialism in an indigestible mixture known as ‘democratic radicalism’.
But propulsive utopia, the lifeblood of the real movement, cannot be found in books or even in the avant-garde theses of the elite philosophers that clock in to the factory of prewrapped ideas like clever shiftworkers.
It feeds off a hidden but burning collective desire, increasing its flow in a thousand ways. Then suddenly you find it at the street corner. The form it takes is not usually staggering. It is often shy and unsure of itself and certainly does not conjure up a vision of lightning on the road to Damascus. But for anyone able to read between the lines of the real movement this and only this is the strong point of a phenomenon that runs into a thousand rivulets, threatening to break up its unity in models worthy of a hasty gazetteer.
Here and there, in the recent students’ and railway workers’ demonstrations in France, the slogan of great revolutions that we were resigned to seeing diluted for ever into parliamentary speeches and pub talk suddenly reappeared: Equality.
The real movement is finding itself in a little path in the forest by pointing to a great utopian objective: go beyond rights to the full reality of the deed.
A swallow does not mean spring, you might say. Correct. A banner, a thousand banners are only words cried to the winds and are often blown away by it. But words are not born inside stuffy libraries. When they correspond to the spirit of thousands of people they suddenly break into the collective consciousness that is the basis of the real movement. Then and only then do they abandon their symbolic purpose and become a simple covering over reality. They become the substance of a project that is latent but at the same time is powerfully operative.
Today the macabre spectacle of equal rights is suffocating any desire that glances beyond the barrier of the ready-made. But the student movement’s refusal of politics is only a filter for the profound, utopian request for immediate, total liberation. Out with all schemers, in with freedom. Right. But when this freedom does not have a bodily content, when it becomes a covering over well (or badly) construed words, then it is no more than a new way of sealing up ideology.
Of course the struggle of those enclosed in the ghettoes, prisons, factories, schools, racial and sexual discrimination, only aims at breaking down the first barrier, the wall, the immediate enemy that one comes up against in painful social discrimination. But although comprehensible, that still does not correspond to a revolutionary struggle for the equality of all, with the maximum exaltation of the difference of each one. No matter how well it goes, the particular struggle will be recuperated and transformed into further conditioning because it is still a struggle for equal ‘rights’ and does not affect situations of fact that are anything but equal so long as there remains a field of political, therefore social, discrimination.
The statement that appeared in the streets of Paris showed a serious attempt to go beyond the trap the ideologues built long ago, conveniently camouflaging it in the suggestion that students beware of outside elements, politics, provocateurs, etc. This is an old story that the managers of power always circulate at opportune moments because they are indirectly in control through the channels of consensus and the conditioning of information. It is a technique they use to warn against dangers relating to one part of themselves so as to detract attention from another part that they want to bring into effect.
Now, by opposing genuinely revolutionary opposition to such underhand plots the real movement is rediscovering the explosive potential of utopia. It is acting in such a way that its radical critique of the process of recuperation cannot be recuperated. It is no coincidence that this position has appeared at a time when economic claims are diminishing in importance. There equality was seen as the result of the repartition of produced value beyond the endemic division between capitalists and proletarians. But we are sure that any society that were to pass more or less violently from capitalism to post-revolutionary socialism through the narrow door of syndicalism would necessarily be a grey parody of a free society. The heavy trade union self-regulating mechanism with its ideal of the good worker and the bad skiver would be transferred to society as a whole. The students have faced the problem of the impossibility of any outlet in the labour market. But their analysis strengthens (or should strengthen) the conviction that only with a radically utopian way of seeing the social problem will it be possible to break through the boundaries of a destiny that those in power seem to hold in their hands. Theirs is certainly not the kind of equality that is being talked about in France today. The same goes for the railway workers, perhaps in an even more obvious way as they make no reference to arguments of an economic or at least wage-claiming kind.
Why, one might ask, are we so sure of the revolutionary content of an idea that, after all, has moved with varying fortunes in the world revolutionary sphere for at least two hundred years? The answer is simple. The propulsive value of a concept cannot be understood in social terms if one limits oneself to examining existing conditions. In fact there is no causal relationship between social conditions and a utopian concept. The latter moves within the real movement and is in deep contrast to the structural limits that condition but do not cause it. On the contrary the same concept can move around comfortably in the fictitious movement. Here, in the rarefied atmosphere of the castle of spooks the utopian concept, having become devoid of meaning, is no more than a product of ideology like so many others. Research into the causes of utopia or rather utopian desire could certainly be interesting but would give poor results if one were to limit oneself to studying the social and historical conditions in which the concept suddenly appears.
For this reason we cannot outline the limits of a presumed operativity of a utopian concept starting from these conditions. It could go well beyond the latter, in other words could itself become an element of social change.
Now, equality is a contradictory concept that exists within each one of us.
On the one hand we feel profoundly different to others and tend to defend and encourage this diversity. We consider uniforming ourselves and accepting orders and impositions to be unworthy of us, even though we often see ourselves forced to put a good face on things for the needs of the moment. On the other hand everyone sees these radical differences as a value that exists within the context of a substantial equality. Equality of conditions, possibilities, freedom, values, social space and so on, all in the more profound difference of desires, feelings, aims, interests, culture, physical aspects, etc.
But this concept has only been perceivable throughout history as an attempt to transform man into a herd animal. In order to become equal to another he had to become a sheep and not think about what made him profoundly different to the shepherd that guides the herd and does the shearing. Democracy has always been seen (and is still seen today) as equality of rights, not conditions. To the hypothetical equality of rights there has always corresponded a substantial inequality of conditions. And differences between people, instead of being related to the nature of their individuality, have always been marked by the different basic conditions they live in as they struggle against the suffocating artificial divisions imposed on them by power.
Incredible things can happen when an idea like equality erupts into the real movement and succeeds in breaking through the conditions that had forced it to remain occult till then. The mortifying reality of the present does not necessarily imply a negative outcome. In practice anything could happen. If some revolutionaries exist before the revolution, most of them are born during it. The strength of the utopian concept multiplies to infinity precisely at the moment in which it is proposed, so long as it emerges within the real movement and is not an ideological plaything within the fictitious one.
The proposal of equality radically transforms the superficial existence of the equality of rights.
The exploited make egalitarian utopia their own from the moment they hoist the flag, thus putting an end to the existence of the equality of rights that was nothing other than the basis of their exploitation. The revolutionary idea ceases to be utopia, transforming itself into events that upturn the social order far beyond what could have been predicted from an analysis of the political situation. The power structure has turned equality into something sacred, imposed the stigma of a right upon it. In this way it has transformed the underground utopian thrust of centuries deep within the real movement into a further means of exploitation and recuperation. The struggle for rights has taken the place of the struggle for real equality.
Only the concrete experience of freedom can lead to real equality (in the profound differences between each one). No freedom can be conceded as a right. Not even the freedom to demonstrate. And it seems that the French students grasped the utopian essence of equality at the moment in which they made utopia the aim of their action, exposing the swindle that presented their demonstration in the streets as a demonstration for rights. It remains to be seen whether the real movement will be able to use this concept, or whether it will succumb to the process of recuperation in course aimed at putting everything back into the paraphernalia of rights. If they were to make revolutionary use of egalitarian utopia, this would become operative immediately in the same way that whoever takes freedom is not freed, but is free.
Equality is defiance of today’s society, the utopian decision to act differently to what the general idea imposes. But this concept has been internalised by most people and become the very foundation of repression and death by uniformity, boredom, suffocation.
This concept of equality, which has made faint hearts fear for the sort of the individual throughout history, represents the most explosive road for safeguarding the real differences and characteristics of each one, beyond the social conditions that chain them to the mediocrity of illusory ones. So equality is the defiance of order that only the real movement can throw in the face of society.
In the streets of Paris they are perhaps beginning to see a clearer road for getting out of the swamp of possibilism. It could be a false alarm, it could be a sign of an underground tumult, it could even be an operative indication to be put into practice, now, everywhere. It is up to the sensitivity of individual comrades to decipher this indication. Men of power have been doing it—to their own exclusive benefit—for a long time.
THE REFUSAL OF ARMS
The ‘refusal’ of arms is an implicit in antimilitarism. But this concept is taken for granted and is hardly ever gone into in any depth.
Being precise objects, weapons are certainly the fundamental instruments that not only the army as an organisation (which would not make sense if it were unarmed), but also the military mentality (which has derived a series of authoritarian deformations from the use of weapons) is based on.
This is so. Armies have always been armed, and have created a particular form of hierarchical organisation with a fixed, rigid level of command precisely because the use of weapons is—or at least is believed to be—rigid and must obey precise rules. The same goes for the mentality. The ‘armed’ individual feels different, more aggressive, and (apparently) more easily overcomes the frustrations that everyone has in them, so ends up becoming overbearing and cowardly at the same time.
But militarism cannot, even in its own opinion, make an ‘optimal’ use of weapons. It must insert their possible use within the political and social context of an unstable equilibrium, both nationally and internationally. At the present time a purely ‘militaristic’ use of arms would be inconceivable. That leads those who carry weapons, as well as their bosses and the arms producers, to developing an ideology of defence with which to cover not only their use but also their production and perfectionment in the negative sense.
When antimilitarists limit themselves to simple declarations of principle, weapons remain something symbolic, i.e. they remain the abstract symbols of destruction and death. On the contrary, if antimilitarism were to go forward concretely and open up the road to liberation in the material sense, then it would not be able to limit itself to a symbolic refusal of arms, but would have to go into the problem more deeply.
In fact weapons, being objects, are considered differently according to the point of view they are being looked at from. That goes for anything, and weapons are no exception. This is not a relativist conception, it is a simple materialist principle. Arms as inert objects do not exist. What do exist are arms in action, i.e. that are used (or waiting to be used) in a given perspective. That is so for all things if we think about it. We tend to imagine things cut off from their historical and material context, as though they were something abstract. But if that were so they would become meaningless, reduced to the impotence we would like to reduce them to in the case of weapons. In fact things are always ‘things in action’. Behind the thing there is always the individual, the individual who acts, plans, uses means to attain ends.
There is no such thing as an abstract weapon (taken as an isolated object), therefore. What do exist are weapons that the army uses in its projects for action. These are given a specific investiture as instruments for the ‘defence of the homeland’, ‘maintaining order’, ‘the destruction of the infidels’, ‘the conquest of territory’, etc. The soldier is therefore in possession of a vast outfit of ideologies or value models, which he acts out when he uses weapons. When he shoots he feels, according to the circumstances, defender of the homeland, builder of the social order, destroyer of the infidels, engineer of social territory, etc. The more his role corresponds to that of the crude executioner, the more he is at the mercy of the fabricators of ideology and capitalist rule, the more the weapons he bears become blind instruments of oppression and death. Even if he were to lay them down they would still be objects within a general framework that qualifies them as instruments of death.
Now, if the project is different, if the aim of the action is different, the significance of the weapon changes. As a means, it can never be absolved of its limitations as an object with which it is possible to procure damage and destruction with a certain ease (which is what distinguishes the object ‘weapon’ from other objects many of which can also become such when necessary). We are not trying to say that the end—liberation, the revolution, anarchy or whatever other liberatory, egalitarian dream—justifies the means, but it can transform weapons into different ‘objects in action’. And this different object in action also comes to be a part of the antimilitarist struggle, even although to all effects it remains a weapon.
In a project of liberation, behind the weapon lies the desire to free ourselves from our rulers and make them pay for the damage they are responsible for. There is class hatred, that of the exploited against the exploiters, there is the concrete material difference of those who continually suffer offence to their dignity and want to wipe out those responsible.
That is all radically different to any ideological chatter about order and defence of the homeland.
BUT WHAT IS THE IMAGINARY
One of the new concepts that is tending to appear with increasing frequency is that of the ‘social’, or ‘collective’, ‘imaginary’. It is nearly always thrown at you as though it were something that everyone is aware of, and is leading to attitudes and deductions that do not seem to me to be all that well founded.
Hence the need to clarify some of the aspects of this ‘concept’, which presents not a few difficulties.
As far as we can see the term ‘social’ or ‘collective’ imaginary is used to refer to the feelings that a socially significant event or situation gives rise to in society as a whole. But there is also an implicit reference to the means of communication that realise the passage of- such events from being circumscribed facts to their spreading in space and persistence in time as never before. In other words it would seem to be an unconscious (therefore irrational) mechanism by which members of society interpret particular events, in exactly the same way as the media do, i.e. in the way desired by the dominant political-cultural structure.
It is taken for granted that this actually occurs, and in fact there can be little doubt that the great mass of people are taken in by the information culture and the ideas elaborated by power. Nor can there be much doubt that most people react in such a uniform way as to make it possible to realise reliable political forecasts and projects even from quite modest samples. Mass society thinks and acts in a massified therefore foreseeable way, far more so than when social cohesion was guaranteed by vast analphabetism.
So far so good. Yet much could be said as to how this uniformity could be broken up to make it become critical and contradictory, confused and desperate, rather than remain inert and consenting.
In actual fact quite the opposite happens. And this also goes for the revolutionary movement, precisely those who should be bringing about, or at least considering the problem of how to bring about, an operation of deconsecration and rupture. Instead the ‘imaginary’ has come to be accepted as a possible point of reference. Something homogeneous that exists and which pressure can be put upon. Something—precisely what is not clear—that can be considered for revolutionary purposes.
When this claim is more articulate, something rare today in times of great analytical poverty, it is said that the ‘imaginary’ is the sum of the various levels of class consciousness or, more simply, that it transforms class differences into sensations and personalised images such as production, social mobility, the structures society is divided into, etc. So through this filter the individual is able to grasp his or her ‘position’ within the social body and identify with one class as opposed to another.
It seems to me that we urgently need to consider a number of problems. First, the fact that the concept of ‘imaginary’ (social and collective) comes ‘dangerously’ close to the concept of ‘myth’. Not that Sorel scares us, what does is an ill-considered, acritical use of mass irrational processes, especially when considered in a revolutionary perspective. Second, it is not in fact true that there is a direct relationship between the ‘imaginary’ and class consciousness in general, if for no other reason than because it is impossible to make a clear separation between exploiters and exploited through processes of induced collective feelings such as those stimulated by the media. Let us take the ‘imaginary’ of nuclear ‘fear’ for example, such as it developed in the wake of Chernobyl. Here a great amorphous fear spread throughout all the social classes, going beyond ‘differences’ by uniting everyone under the common denominator of death by radiation. What emerges in any discussion on this element of the ‘imaginary’ (social or collective) is a connection, not with levels of consciousness, but with a collective, irrational reaction. In other words we are far from the project of the ‘myth of the general strike’ which could only be perceived (but not brought about) by the proletariat according to Sorel’s thesis.
Third, the consideration that there is such a thing as a reservoir of potential that is simply waiting to be tapped for any revolutionary project we have in mind, is certainly negative. That would lead to the belief that the media could be used to divert such a reservoir (the ‘Imaginary’) to the advantage of the revolutionary movement, whereas in reality it can only be reached, expanded or modified to the exclusive benefit of the projects of power. If we were to accept that point of view we would tend to choose the kind of actions of attack we think would be most easily understood in an ‘imaginary’ key, not realising that this is managed by power through ‘its’ information.
But let us look at things from a different point of view, one which is of more interest to us in my opinion. That the social or collective ‘imaginary’ be ‘an organisation of images’ is undoubtedly the case. Otherwise why use this horrible neologism? Whoever uses it must have in mind not a woolly impenetrable muddle of images but a whole fairly clear structure. So if we want to use this term we should use it in the sense of something organised at the level of imagination, something that concerns symbols, feelings, sensations, images produced by reality (‘socially significant facts’), then transferred to the collectivity by the classical instrument of the media.
Now, if we consider this carefully we see that ‘an organisation of images’ is what Sorel used to define as ‘myth’. He even uses the same words: ‘the myth is an organisation of images’.
In recent years (which could explain the confused immersion of this concept into the revolutionary movement) there has been not so much a revival of Sorel as of the concept of the myth, with analyses by Levi Strauss and Barthes, up to Douglas and Godelier. This has happened parallel to the profound changes in the productive and social structures, new cultural stimuli and the collapse of the old system of centralism and State planning. As capitalism moves towards restructuring on the basis of everything being ‘provisional’ in a reality charged with tension and lack of permanence where all the certainties of the past are being replaced by probabilistic models, the concept of ‘political myth’ is taking up its trajectory again in the new guise of ‘social’ (or collective) ‘imaginary’.
Not only are we against the acritical use of such a term, we consider it indispensable to see what the consequences of considering such a concept within a revolutionary project would be. This is particularly necessary in a situation of social disintegration such as the present. We need to examine and clarify how the powers of persuasion work, how the irrational (therefore also imaginary) forces that the profound structural modifications are causing in society also work, and understand why the new concepts that are taking the place of the idols of the past are so fascinating and mystifying.
We are not saying we are for a cold analysis that states things with clarity, wanting to plant an ideological tree in place of a luxurious spontaneous jungle of exotic plants. We are only saying we cannot accept complex and contradictory concepts as though they were acclaimed usable instruments for our daily struggle against the State and capital.
Our main point of reference remains the whole of the exploited, particularly the part who are about to be thrown out of the work market due to the process of capitalist restructuring. This whole can undoubtedly be reached through the flux of the ‘organisation of images’ that power brings about for its own aims, but this process has not been fully perfected. Contradictions are opening up in it. People might convince themselves of something but at the same time they cannot avoid harbouring suspicion and a potential for revolt. This potential is gradually increasing alongside power’s attempts to obtain consensus and adhesion, as the new systems of exploitation (ferocious restructuring and destruction of the old work identity) become clearly visible. Power cannot prevent such elements from entering the process of ‘organisation of images’ that it is working to produce. And this is the place for our intervention.
So we can only take into account what is wrongly defined as the ‘imaginary’ in part, using precisely that area of it that power cannot control, not the whole of the flux of images it manipulates to transmit to and implant in people. And this part can only be reached by stimuli of rebellion, by—if you like—the irrational consequences of violent modifications in the productive structures, themselves indirectly caused by the flux of information and centralised control.
So, we suggest a critical examination of the concept of ‘imaginary’ in such a way as to make it possible to individuate elements that are ‘accidental’ or ‘uncontrollable’ as far as power is concerned. We believe the revolutionary movement should make reference to these and these alone, not to some hypothetical collective ‘imaginary’ seen as an immense reservoir from which it is possible to draw subversive potential.
Are we modern?
It is not just a question of words. There is a common line of thought that sees those who want to conserve the past as being quite separate from the supporters of a future that is still to be built. The first are seen as old and stupid, linked to institutions and structures surpassed in time, the second as addicted to transformation and innovation. In between, rooted in the past but with an eye turned to the future, are the so-called reformists and their desires for hazy half measures.
It should be said right away that, although we are convinced that this division has seen its day, it still persists in our minds, a mental category we cannot free ourselves from because we do not want to face it. Most of us would never admit that the ‘future’, i.e. modernity, and ‘revolution’ i.e. violent transformation, could do anything but stand together. But is that really so? A progressive idea of history cannot but say it is. But what has historicism led to? Without doubt it has built concentration camps. Also model prisons, but these came later. Millions of people have been slaughtered in the name of the objective spirit that realises itself in History (therefore comes about gradually, in modernity, in the future), and all with the best of intentions.
And we are nearly all, anarchists included, children of historicism; at least until proved otherwise. We deduct from this that more or less all of us are for progress (whoever would admit to anything else?) and believe that either we are moving towards a final catastrophe or to a profound, radical change in values. This idea of history as something that is marching to its destiny is reassuring, even when we see this destiny as a complete holocaust
This incapacity to question our cultural origins, in the first place historicism, then determinism, scientism, eclecticism (a decent analysis of Malatesta’s thought is necessary here), prevents us from seeing our own condition clearly
We nearly all believe we are ‘post’ something or other. Personally I think we are in a post-industrial era and have thought so since at least the end of the Seventies, but this no longer conveys much. Industry such as Ford, Taylor and Marx imagined it has seen its day, and the trades unions and syndicalist organisations, even those we conceived ourselves, have also seen their day.
The management of capitalism at world level depends less and less on a concept of life based on the accumulation of value. That is to say that if industry in terms of machinery and skilled labour was the basis of the social transformation that led to the modern world, the end of industry—now replaced by electronically controlled diffused production—marks its eclipse.
A new Middle Ages? An absurd question, just as the answers on all sides have been. It is pointless to attempt to see historical ‘remakes’. The political pragmatism of daily adjustments is leading to long term changes in the social whole, where new possibilities of dominion and forms of struggle against oppression are emerging. The acid test of the class struggle is always reality in all its forms, and these forms taken individually, cannot be considered more modern than those that have been supplanted because they no longer correspond to certain aims. This philosophical necessity of choice is purely hypothetical. In reality things are different. Choices from a wide range of variants are possible because the basic values affecting the judgements that produce these choices exist. Considered concretely, i.e. as their effect as elements capable of transforming reality, these values are neither ancient nor modern. The very idea of progress is antithetical to them and produces incredible confusion.
For example, is equality an ancient or a modern value? It is impossible to answer this question. Given that it has never existed in reality, at least in recent history, one deduces that it must be related to the future. But is the future modern? We do not know. There are, however, different ways of believing the realisation (or prevention) of equality to be possible. Seen in relation to their effectiveness and their response to social conditions at a given historical moment, these can be considered to be either ancient or modern. And is the accumulation of value ancient or modern for capitalism? Given the conditions at the present time one could say that it is no longer a modern value and that new aims are appearing on the horizons of those in power. Distinction could be one of these values, the distance between two world concepts: those who control the levers of power (the Included) and those who must simply obey and have been programmed and conditioned for this (the excluded). Reductive values such as nihilism, neo-formalism, analphabetism, velocism, supra-nationalism, etc. are also modern values that reconfirm this final separation between included and excluded. But is it possible to consider such values in historicist terms, as being more advanced than those of the past? I really don’t think so.
We have often asked ourselves whether it is absolutely necessary to destroy technology or whether we should guarantee its safe revolutionary passage to a possible future ‘good’ use. Then we realised that the technology of computers and universal control could never be useful to a society that starts off from the real liberation of all as opposed to that of a privileged minority. Hence destruction as a necessary fact, a value. Modern? We do not know. There have also been moments of destruction that seemed reactionary in the past (there are still some who speak of the Vendee as something negative, but do so due to their personal historical ignorance) which since have been reexamined more closely. The peasants’ insurrections burned castles. Were they modern? We do not care a bit. Is a struggle today against neo-machinery modern? It is for us because we are trying, not without difficulty, to see things from a point of view that is not totally historicist. Think of the arguments about nuclear power. Ourselves against the bosses who turn out to be—some of them—in favour of it. But on each side of the clash, hallucinations of the Apocalypse. Undoubtedly an effect of historicist culture on both sides. So at a point it is easy for the bosses to reject nuclear energy and transfer their interests and projects elsewhere.
The same thing goes for atomic war and the atmosphere of millenarian catastrophe we breathe all around us today. The end of a millennium is fast approaching and the circle will present itself again, always the same and always different The rapid destruction of world resources carried out by the plunderers in power is an inescapable fact. This will either be brought to an end, or it will be transformed when the included of tomorrow build one world suited to their own needs and another for the needs of others. In other words, even the present battle against the wastage of natural resources could become an industry in the future, the foundation of the exploitation of tomorrow. That it is why we propose an immediate systematic attack on all the forms of capitalist expression, both the backward ones still linked to rapid and irrational exploitation and the more advanced ones linked to the electronic control of the planet. In a not too distant future they will shake hands, crushing us in the middle.
In order to do this we must have the courage to look backwards as well as forwards. Backwards to seek certain values that are no longer considered ‘modern’. In this research we could single out a few elements that relate to human action: constancy, courage, respect for one’s fellows (human or animal), being harsh with oneself, frugality, a correct consideration of the environment. But others too that are only apparently in contrast: play, love, fantasy, joy, tenderness, dreams.
In order to make these things our own, critically, not as dogmas imposed by a globalising concept of the world, we must move towards a radical contrast with the present social situation as a whole. We do not accept compromise. We are not points of reference to be taken for granted. We are not supplying a formula for numerical growth.
Now, this position seems to strongly contradict some of the essential points of historicism. Not only does it go against the idea of the Spirit that realises itself in history, it eliminates any privileged point of reference, even, let’s be clear about this, Anarchy. To be against power, the State, class domination and all forms of exploitation is all very well. But to oppose all that with an ideological, dogmatic juxtaposition instead of action, no, absolutely not. If we must reduce anarchy to this in the name of our great ideal, I do not agree. Anyone who enjoys this weekend pastime may do as they please, we will certainly not be the ones to prevent them from walking. But they should not complain if we start running while they are still claiming their rights as free afternoon ramblers. We have never wanted to know anything of these rights.
And we contradict historicism, or so it seems, with our craving desire for action. We cannot simply wait for things to come to an end in our absence. We want to be in the game. We want to contribute to transformation in the direction we believe is right, now, not in the sense of a dogma that has been fixed for ever in time. We cannot wait so are acting here and now, recognising no point of reference on which to pin our hopes and expectations. Nor do we recognise the existence of some ‘objective spirit’ or lay god that might be working for our liberation. In the deep of the night where all values tend to be zeroised, if anything lights them up we want it to be the light of our explosions.
THE PRIORITY OF PRACTICE
When we look at the actions of others we tend to see in them a priority given either to practice or to theoretical reflection.
Neither of these satisfies us.
When we observe e others we often ask ourselves why they tend one way or the other on the scales of an ideal equilibrium that clearly only exists in our dreams.
Is this due to specific interests? Ideological preclusion? Narrow mindedness? Intellectual poverty, or simply stupidity? There is no lack of choice. And usually, often without realising it, we make precisely the judgement that happens to be the most convenient to us, either to take a distance from a practice we do not want to have anything to do with, or so as not to get involved in theoretical positions we do not share.
But human beings act within a whole flux of relations where it is not always possible, and never easy, to see clearly where practice ends and theoretical considerations begin. When this impossibility is taken to the extreme limit, theory and practice become one. This is only possible for the sake of argument. Abstract elements are isolated, i.e. taken from a wider context, and the more obvious components emerge. This problem does not only concern theory, it also concerns practice. In other words, by acting in this way we are able to make not only theoretical but also practical ‘abstractions’ We thereby deduce that there is no absolute correlation between ‘abstractness’ and theory at least in the way that those in favour of practice would have us believe.
From the moment in which an individual finds himself in a personal and social situation, i.e. from birth and even beyond physical death, they begin working out a theoretical elaboration for all their actions, even the most seemingly blind and conditioned of them. This is constantly present putting, order, within certain limits, into that acting no matter how spontaneous it might appear to be. So theory is part of the experience of life itself the way others bring themselves to our attention in action, joy, feelings, disappointments or in the ideas we allow to penetrate us through reading, studying, looking, talking, listening, but also from transforming, working, destroying.
There is not one ‘place’ for theory and another for practice therefore, except in an abstract consideration suspended like a ghost outside the world. The fact that this ghost turns out to be anything but outside this world but acts and produces effects inside it merely confirms what we have just said. In other words there are relations of reciprocal exchange between these two moments of human experience which are themselves part of a general flux, not separate objects in space. We can make a clearer distinction when we speak of how someone who acts tries to set about their action in respect to others. Again it is only possible to identify an ‘orientation’ up to a point, certainly not a constant relationship of cause and effect. This orientation gives us an indication of the actor’s intentions and the condition of who is at the receiving end of the action, all within the vast flux of relations that cannot be isolated in reality, merely singled out for the love of clarity. Whoever acts in any one of a hundred, a thousand, ways makes their intentions known concerning the aim of their action. At the margins these intentions melt into a fluid context, but in their nucleus, during the most significant moments of the event or events that solidify them as intentions, there is considerable orientation indicating the choice of means, clarifying the objective, transforming relations, and all this does not leave reality as a whole unchanged. Here the leaning can be practical or theoretical, according to the actor’s intentions, If on the other hand the prevalence is accidental, comes about by mistake whereas the intention had been quite different, the relation between orientation and objective is reversed. The action takes place with the consequent transformation of individual and collective relations as a whole. But the greater the number of elements of disturbance capable of acting on and reversing the results, the further it will be from the original intention.
Criticism, if one really intends to do something and not just give; oneself an ideological cover up, must grasp these discrepancies between intention and objective, aims and action. Criticism that degenerates into simple statements such as those describing the forms taken by the intention/objective relationship is pointless.
To say that a given position gives priority to ‘practice’ or that another privileges theory is senseless. It is necessary to see in depth how the action in question can be reached (or at least got a glimpse of) through its orientation And this cannot start from a positive or negative consideration of practice or theory. Worse still, it cannot come from a judgement that gives complete preference to either theory or practice concerning the subject under discussion.
All critical analysis should therefore examine the orientation, its adequacy concerning the objective, and this cannot end up with a value judgement. We shall try to be more clear. ‘Inadequate’ interventions take place for various reasons, not all of which are the ‘fault’ of whoever is directing the orientation. From personal incapacity to inadequate decisions (but who establishes how and what qualitative or quantitative-should be done?) the arc is extremely wide. Basically, adequacy should be looked for on the basis of the whole orientation proposed, that is to say it should be ascertained whether there are contradictions within the orientation itself rather than contrasts between proposal and objective. The roads to accomplishing an aim are not always easily grasped, at least not right at the beginning, and it is easy to be led astray by one’s convictions and conditioning. Instead, and this is the point, some research on contradictions is important.
Can a reasonable person say then unsay something? Our culture says no, absolutely not. We are the offspring of western rationalism and do not admit contradiction in our orientations. The fact remains that the latter exist, and the results of their unrecognised presence are,
unfortunately, always very bitter. Analyses should move in this direction, not cry scandal (when some speak then contradict themselves), but show how and with what consequences the contradictions revealed produce greater or lesser possibilities of reaching the objective chosen. Because that is the way things are, the road of action is not always straight.
And the most relevant contradictions, those that make people cry out right away about the inadequacy of the direction when not-and here the cry would definitely be gratuitous—about privileging theory as opposed to practice or vice versa, are precisely those who are unable to make up their minds about the effects of the theory-practice relationship, claiming to separate the inseparable.
To conclude this now long precision, let us say that the real problem is not so much that of tracing a uniform way of acting towards an objective as of grasping the orientation in its entirety, seeing the totality of theory and practice as direct action and the transformation of reality as a whole. It is here that the value of what we do lies, not in so-called claims to purity or coherence at all costs, not enclosing everything in a region where the air is so pure one cannot allow any contrast or contradiction,
There is no such thing as a dichotomy between those who elaborate theory and those who act, but between those (both in the realms of practice and theory, as their apparent orientation might be, at least according to them) who want to contribute to transforming things from their actual ‘normal’ state to one which is radically different, and those who do not. There are servants of power who feel good in their uniforms and people who want to free themselves, and for this reason have decided to struggle.
THE ARMED WING OF SCIENCE
There is a precise relationship between the means we have at our disposal and our capacity to self-manage and defend ourselves against any form of power and exploitation. The more effective and sophisticated the means, the easier it is for them to fall into the hands of a minority who use them for their own projects to control the rest of us. It derives from this that developments in technology—the ‘armed wing’ of science—are going towards a perfectioning of dominion running parallel to the few minimal improvements conceded in general living conditions.
I do not know if the present level of scientific (and consequently technological) development should make us fear that catastrophe is imminent. I do not give much credit to catastrophe theories personally, in fact I believe they could be designed to scare people. Nevertheless I am certain that not only is it no longer possible to control technological advance because of the incredible speed at which it is developing new means and perfectioning new instruments, but also that the rulers themselves are no longer able to coordinate them in a rationally planned project. Not only would it be impossible to put much of what is being produced to any good use, most of it is no more than a reproduction of conditions that cannot be brought to a halt, at least in the present political and social situation.
Over the next few years each single technological innovation could give rise to an exponential growth of unknown dimensions, both in terms of their effects and application. This will lead to an ‘explosion’ not in the specific atomic, genetic or electronic sense so much as an uncontrollable spreading of even more technological developments.
Many comrades see technology in terms of the friendly computer, the super fridge, the old TV set that gave us a few pleasant evenings (disturbed at times by the criticism of overbiased theorizers), so a condemnation of technology as a whole shakes them. On the contrary, we believe that the danger lies not in specific technological choices but in the speed—now crazily out of control—at which they are being applied, This has led to a widening of the distance that has always existed between ‘knowledge’ and ‘technical means’. We now find ourselves faced with an unbridgeable gap. Not so much in terms of ‘controlling’ the means, understanding them and using them within the limits and awareness of the risks that any ‘prothesis’ implies. We are convinced that this distance has grown, not just concerning the exploited class who have been led far away from any possibility of taking over the available technology by force, but also as regards the dominant class, the so-called included with their highly specialised technicians and scientists.
This disturbing thought can be illustrated by looking at some of the experiments carried out by the ‘apprentice sorcerers’ in the past. Certainly having fewer means at their disposition, but presenting just as many dangers that were faced with the same superficiality. The exploitation of the planet’s resources, atomic energy, the division of the world into areas of influence with projects of genocide concerning the most economically backward populations, capitalist accumulation, the cynical arms market and many other such nice activities are but a few of the consequences. And these are all quite rudimental if we consider the risks that an uncontrolled acceleration in technological experimentation could give rise to today.
We do not know what consequences the genetic changes in the animal and vegetable selection presently being experimented will lead to. What scares us most is that we do not know what the results of an advance in the technological application of this research will make possible in the near future. The first fear would still hold even if technology were to put a brake on itself and science were to stop ‘thinking’. That being impossible, the second is more than well-founded.
All this constitutes a real danger, one that technology as the armed wing of science is no longer able to put a halt to, making us risk more and more as each year goes by.
How are the social and political (therefore also political and moral) structures responding to this situation? With pitiful calls to scientists to act with prudence and a sense of responsibility, to politicians for more control, along with vague denunciations of the dangers of this or that branch of research. As though there was such a thing as good and bad technology, and as though the whole of science (including its armed wing) were not involved in a process of development that will require something far more complex than the bleating of reformist politicians or proposals for an ecological orientation to put a stop to.
Behind science stands international capital, behind each individual scientist (but how many of them are there now, certainly no more than a couple of dozen in the world, for the rest it is a question of highly specialised workers) there are massive State investments, military projects of control and economic projects for capitalist accumulation. And above all there is technological development.
That is why we are against the whole of technology and do not agree that it can be divided in two, one part to be rejected (where to?) and the other accepted. Our road is quite a simple one. It does not stumble over a thousand obstacles like that of the opportunists, in fact it is the only practicable one in the present state of affairs. The propulsive outlet must be revolution. A profound upheaval of social political, cultural and moral relations. These are the only conditions under which it will be possible to put an end to the exponential processes of technology with all their consequences.
We all know, and there is no need to continually be reminded of it, that this revolutionary outlet seems far away today. But we must not forget that it is precisely the perverse mechanism of the productive structure itself that we must take as our point of reference, as our subterranean ally. On one side, the side of the exploited, we have the will and determination of a few revolutionaries capable of working constantly within the various contradictions caused by the production process as a whole. On the other, the perversity of the technological process along with the obtusity of the managerial class and their incapacity to control the means at their disposal. A new model of class division is emerging, a different way of conceiving the struggle and involvement in the clash.
We are convinced that today’s technology will never be of any valid use. Not because we are luddites. Or if we are it is certainly in ways and with aims that are quite different to those of the last century. The fact is that as a whole, technology today is moving unequivocably and unchecked towards a quite perverse accumulation. The struggle against technology is therefore in itself a revolutionary struggle, even though we know perfectly well that in an acute phase it will not be possible to reach its abolition completely. But objective conditions will have changed, and the field that this technology finds itself operating in will be different. For the same reason we find those who accuse us of using the technology we hasten to condemn ridiculous. It is certainly not by coming out in crusades against the peripheral products of technological capitalism that we will be able to face the class struggle and the new (vertiginously new) conditions of the clash. To simply refuse this technology would lead to sclerotisation, a sacralisation of fear, creating myths where we would end up playing into the hands of all those who have an interest in increasing fragmentation and endless circumscribed sectors.
The same goes for science, the concepts of science, not the people who set themselves up as scientists to better qualify their role as the servants of power. We are not against ‘thought’ of course, what we are against is ‘specialisation’. No matter what area it comes from it is always the harbinger of new power systems, new forms of exploitation. Thought is free activity and we anarchists will certainly not be the ones to propose its limitation. But we are not so stupid as to request ‘self-limitation’ by those who gain huge profits from thinking as well as the benefits of status and a career. The first prospect would be authoritarian and liberticide, the second simply stupid.
Those who make thought an element of privilege in order to ensure the continuation of power today will unfortunately continue to act in order to maintain the underlying conditions that make such forms of thought possible. In the meantime some of them could be brought to face the weight of their responsibility, but that would be a question of marginal deeds that cannot clean out the sewer completely.
THE MORAL SPLIT
It is not enough for an action simply to be considered ‘right’ in order for it to be carried out. Other elements, such as the underlying moral judgement, are involved, which have nothing to do with the validity of the action. This becomes obvious when you see the difficulty many comrades have in carrying out actions that in themselves are in no way exceptional.
A moral obstacle appears, leading to a real ethical ‘split’ with unpredictable consequences. For example, we have been pointing out the uselessness of huge peaceful demonstrations for some time now. Instead we propose mass demonstrations that are organised insurrectionally, supported by small actions against the capitalist structures that are responsible for the present situation of exploitation and genocide all over the world.
We think it could be useful to reflect for a moment on the different attitudes that exist concerning such actions, beyond any question of method or political choice
No matter how much we go into things theoretically, spooks remain inside all of us. One of these is other people’s property. Others are people’s lives, God, good manners, sex, tolerating other people’s opinions, etc. Sticking to the subject: we are all against private property, but as soon as we reach out to attack it an alarm bell rings inside us. Centuries of moral conditioning set in motion without our realising it, with two results. On the one hand there is the thrill of the forbidden—which leads many comrades to carry out senseless little thefts that often go beyond immediate and unavoidable needs—and on the other the unease of behaving ‘immorally’. Putting the ‘thrill’ aside, which I am not interested in and which I willingly leave to those who like to amuse themselves with such things, I want to take a look at the ‘unease’.
The fact is, we have all been reduced to the animal state of the herd. The morals we share (all of us, without exception) are ‘altruistic’. That is, we are respectable egalitarian and levelling. The territories of this morality have yet to be explored. How many comrades who superbly declare they have visited them would recoil at the sight of their own sister’s breast? Certainly not a few.
And even when we justify our attack on private property to ourselves—and to the tribunal of history—by maintaining that it is right that the expropriators be expropriated, we are still prisoners of a kind of slavery—moral slavery to be exact. We are confirming the eternal validity of the bosses of the past, leaving the future to judge whether those into whose hands we have consigned what has been taken from us personally be considered expropriators or not.
So, from one justification to another, we end up building a church, almost without realising it. I say ‘almost’ because basically we are aware of it but it scares us.
To take property from others has a social significance. It constitutes rebellion and, precisely because of this, property owners must be part of the property-owning class, not simply people who possess something. We are not aesthetes of nihilist action who see no difference between taking from the former and pinching money from the beggar’s plate.
The act of expropriation means something precisely in its present class context, not because of the ‘incorrect’ way that those we intend to expropriate have acted in the past. If that were our only point of reference then the capitalist who pays union wages and ‘looks after’ his workers, sells at reasonable prices, etc., would be excluded from the legitimacy of expropriation. Why should we concern ourselves with such questions?
The same thing happens when we talk about ‘destructive’ actions. Many comrades know no peace. Why these actions? What is gained by them? What is the point of them? They are of no benefit to us and only damage others.
For the sake of argument, by attacking a firm that supplies arms to South Africa or which finances the racist regime in Israel, one that projects nuclear power stations or makes electronic devices with which to ‘improve’ traditional weapons, the accent is put not so much on the latter’s specific responsibility, as on the fact that they belong to the class of exploiters. Specific responsibility only concerns the strategic and political choice. The sole element for reaching the ethical decision is the class one. Realising this enables us to reach a certain clarity on the matter. The moral foundation for any action is the difference between classes, the belonging to one of the two components of society that are irreducibly opposed and whose only solution is the destruction of one or the other.
Political and strategic foundations, on the other hand, require a series of considerations that can be quite contradictory. All the objections listed above concern this latter aspect and have nothing to do with the underlying moral justification.
But, without our realising it, it is in the field of moral decision that many of us come up against obstacles. The basically peaceful (or almost peaceful) marches, no matter how demonstrative of our intentions ‘against’, were quite different. Even the violent clashes with the police were quite different. There was an intermediate reality between ourselves and the ‘enemy’, something that protected our moral alibi. We felt sure we were in the ‘right’ even when we adopted positions (still in the area of democratic dissent) that were not shared by the majority of the demonstrators. Even when we smashed a few windows things remained in such a way that this could be accommodated.
Things are different when we act alone or with other comrades who could never give us a psychological ‘cover’ such as that which we so easily get from within the ‘mass’. It is now individuals who decide to attack the institution. We have no mediators. We have no alibi. We have no excuse. We either attack or retreat. We either accept the class logic of the clash as an irreducible counterposition or move backwards towards negotiation and verbal and moral deception.
If we reach out and attack property—or something else, but always in the hands of the class enemy—we must accept full responsibility for our deed, without seeking justification in the presumed collective level of the situation. We cannot put off moral judgement concerning the need to attack and strike the enemy until we have consulted those who, all together, determine the ‘collective situation’. I shall explain better. I am not against the work of mass counter-information or the intermediate struggles that are also necessary in a situation of exploitation and misery. What I am against is the symbolic (exclusively symbolic) course that these struggles take. They should be aimed at obtaining results, even limited ones, but results that are immediate and tangible, always with the premise that the insurrectional method—the refusal to delegate the struggle, autonomy, permanent conflictuality and self-managed base structures-—be used.
What I do not agree with is that one should stop there, or even before that point as some would have it, at the level of simple counterinformation and denunciation, moreover decided by the deadlines provided by repression.
It is possible, no, necessary, to do something else, and that something needs to be done now in the present phase of violent, accelerated restructuring. It seems to me that this can be done by a direct attack on small objectives that indicate the class enemy, objectives that are quite visible in the social territory, or if they are not, the work of counterinformation can make them so with very little effort.
I do not think any anarchist comrade can be against this practice, at least in principle. There could be (and are) those who say they are against such a practice due to the fact that they see no constructive mass perspective in the present political and social situation, and I can understand this. But these actions should not be condemned on principle. The fact is that those who take a distance from them are far fewer than those who support them but do not put them into practice. How is that? I think that this can be explained precisely by this ‘moral split’, which a going over the threshold of the ‘rights’ of others causes in comrades like myself and so many others, educated to say ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ for the slightest thing.
We often talk about liberating our instincts, and—to tell the truth without having any very clear ideas on the subject—we also talk about ‘living our lives’ (complex question that merits being gone into elsewhere). We talk of refusing the ideals transmitted from the bourgeoisie in their moment of victory, or at least the bogus way in which such ideals have been imposed upon us through current morals. Basically what we are talking about is the real satisfaction of our needs, which are not just the so-called primary ones of physical survival. Well. I believe words are not enough for such a beautiful project. When it stayed firmly within the old concept of class struggle based on the desire to ‘reappropriate’ what had unjustly been taken from us (the product of our labour), we were able to ‘talk’ (even if we didn’t get very far) of needs, equality, communism and even anarchy. Today, now that this phase of simple reappropriation has been changed by capital itself, we cannot have recourse to the same words and concepts. The time for words is slowly coming to an end. And we realise with each day that passes that we are tragically behind, closed within a ghetto arguing about things that are no longer of any real revolutionary interest, as people are rapidly moving towards other meanings and perspectives as Power slyly and effectively urges them on. The great work of freeing the new man from morals, this great weight built in the laboratories of capital and smuggled into the ranks of the exploited, has practically never begun.
THE TYRANNY OF WEAKNESS
We came up against weakness everywhere today. We are weak, or act as though we are for fear of seeming different.
It is no longer fashionable to be self-assured or to have knowledge of oneself or others or things. It seems old fashioned, almost bad taste. We no longer make any effort to do things well, and by that I mean the things we have chosen to do, that we believe we would do at any cost. Against logic itself, we do them badly, superficially, without paying any attention to detail. We do not exactly boast about this weakness of course, but use it as a kind of screen to hide behind.
So we have become slaves to this new, rapidly-spreading myth. What we want to do here is not talk about ‘strength’—which has never been anything but a disguised form of weakness—but rather try to bring this situation to light. It is a question of a flattening of values and a distortion of the instruments we need to acquire in order to live and to attack our enemies. The prevailing model at the present time is that of the loser, renunciation, abandoning the struggle or simply slowing down. The power structure has every interest in seeing that this disposition continues. We hardly think at all and reason inadequately, passively submitting to the messages that are put out by the various information channels. We do not react.
We are building a personality that is halfway between the idiot and the stamp collector. We understand little, yet know a lot: a multitude of useless dispersive things, pocket encyclopedia knowledge.
We are convinced that we have a right to be stupid and ignorant, to be losers.
We have sent efficiency back to the adversary, considering it a model that belongs to the logic of power. And that was right, indispensable once. When it was a question of damaging the class enemy it was right to be absenteeists and against work. But now we have introjected this attitude and it is our adversary who is winning the return game. We have given up, even as regards ourselves and the things we really want to do.
And so we have turned to the butterfly-catching of oriental philosophy, alternative products and ways of thinking, models that are of little use and which lack incisiveness. Instead of waiting for our teeth to fall out, we are pulling them out one by one. Now we are happy and toothless.
The laboratories of power are programming a new model of renunciation for us. Only for us, of course. For the winning minority, the ‘included’, the model is still aggressivity and conquest. We are no longer the sanguinary, violent barbarians that once let loose in insurrections and uncontrollable revolts. We have become philosophers of nothing, sceptical about action, blase and dandy. We have not even noticed that they are shrinking our language and our brains. We are hardly able to write any more, something that is important in order to communicate with others. We are hardly able to talk any longer. We express ourselves in a stunted jargon made up of banalities from television and sport, a barrack-style journalism that apparently facilitates communication, whereas in reality it debases and castrates it.
But worse still, we are hardly able to make an effort to do anything any longer. We do not commit ourselves. Few deadlines, a few things to be done, not much reading. A meeting, an action here and there and we are prostrated, done in. On the other hand we spend hours listening to (without understanding) music that is devoid of content, songs in languages we do not understand, noises that imitate the factory, racing cars or motorbikes. Even when we lose ourselves in the contemplation of nature (what little remains of it) we do not really go for a walk, it is the walk that enters us. We accept the banality, the ecological and naturalist models that capitalism (in its new alternative version, of course, even worse than what went before it) is coming out with. But we have no experience of any real relationship with nature, one that requires engagement and strength, aggression and struggle, not mere contemplation.
And don’t talk to me about the aggressive behaviour of the capitalists in contrast to which we should be developing tolerant behaviour. I know perfectly well what the aggressivity of capital means, or that of the participants in the Paris-Dakar race. That is not what I am talking about. In fact I do not mean aggressivity at all. Words can be deceiving. What I mean is that it is necessary to act instead of idling one’s time away while the boat goes up in flames.
Either we are convinced that far-reaching changes are taking place or we are not. Capitalism and power are undergoing a transformation that will upset the present state of our lives for goodness knows how many decades. If we are not profoundly convinced of this then we might as well carry on chasing the butterflies of our dreams, the myths of buddhism, homeopathic medicine, Zen philosophy, escapist literature, sport or whatever else we fancy, including an agreeable distancing ourselves from grammar and language.
But if we are convinced of the first hypothesis, if we are convinced there is a project in course that is bent on reducing us to slaves, principally to a cultural slavery that is depriving us of even the possibility of seeing our chains, then we can no longer put up with tolerance or the tendency to give up or abandon the struggle. And it should not be thought that what we are saying here is only valid for comrades who have already put revolutionary engagement behind them and are now quite tranquilly grazing among the greens, the oranges, the Buddhists or other such herds. We are also referring to those who maintain they are still revolutionaries but are living the tragedy of progressive physical and mental pollution day by day.
This is not a simple call to action. The cemeteries are full of such calls. We are talking about a project that has been studied in the laboratories of capital and is now being applied to perfection. It is aimed at gradually and painlessly turning us away from our capacity to struggle. This project is moving hand in hand with the profound restructuring of capital. Ours is not a call to voluntarism, or if you like, a cry in the wilderness. We hope it will be, even if limited and approximate, a small contribution to an understanding of the profound changes that are taking place in the world around us.