Friday, January 28, 2011

Belated Letters to Insurgents and Good Tidings | part 2

L. Desormais,

My never ending apologies for truant letters. The metropolitan trenches have this way of deepening my lack of faculties—making what words should come with ease into an endeavor all its own. Our congregation is so very far from the lovely scent of open conflicts. Still heeding the watchwords and making sense of the inspiring images and messages from distant lands, we lack the immediacy of speech. All of this makes communication remain a potentiality to be realized, rather than the result of the dispositions we take on during conflict. There is still a road ahead of us.

It's not difficult to understand or conceptualize a strategy of general withdrawal from production. What is bothersome remains the technical operations that follow this strategy, and the confusion surrounding the question “Of what does our congregation consist?” The answer to one informs the other. Understanding the makeup of our collectivities would give us insight in to both the questions of “What material resources, languages, and terrain do we already possess?” and “What role do we play in modern society?” What means we employ in order to withdraw from this role would be informed by the former question of what we already have at our disposal. I'm sure you can empathize—it's hard to know whether or not a collective should put its efforts into cheerleading the various protagonists that emerge in struggles that are geo-socially foreign—through means of revolutionary solidarity, public discussions, and general propaganda. Or if a collective owes it to the struggles taking place to seek out, make links and, with a careful hand, tie together the threads of a coherent active minority position that can itself contribute in its own unique way to the emergency situations when they come. One does not exclude the other—and it's best to simply wager and go for it—but I think a collective still must suss it out collectively in order to make the best wager.

You'll notice I don't mention the syndicalist, or big organization method. And though I'm sure you're familiar with critiques of unions, the left, etc, I want to put this argument to rest. Allow me to test my logic. It's not that I don't have a small yearning for the proletarian programs of the past, but as it stands no mass organization can resist the seduction of producing subjects, and no economic hypothesis can fathom a life without “the rule” and “value” as its basis. There can be no free labor when any attempt to free ourselves is limited by the process that created labor as such. Not to be such an art-douche, but forms do not exist in a vacuum. If all social forms are dominated (subsumed) by capital, no social form can be expected to generate a world free from capital. Furthermore, if we are in a period of capitalist valorization dominated by the process of producing capitalist content, then the fight is not happening primarily at the level of classical politics. Although we can see different social movements influence the policies of politicians and capitalists through legal and illegal means, we always see, in the same operations performed by these social movements, the realization of fully functioning capitalist democracies. This is why the fight is called “biopolitical,” because the war in progress takes place as conflicts over what lives are licit and illicit. This makes fomenting any real oppositional force a challenge because to be included or excluded is still to be perceived and incorporated. Would we prefer to be marked for death or for market research? We see the “protester” or “activist” take its rightful place among the loyal opposition, and we see the unions make abundantly clear just exactly what “the worker” identity has won us. We can't trust anything to wither away, but I don't think that means that we are irredeemably destined to experiment with failing forms. I think in the US in particular, because of how advanced the process of social dissolution and alienation, we are best suited to experiment with content—with what undocile means of living we find to arm us for withdraw from production. And this will always find itself antagonistic to mass organizations. If there is a dictatorship of the proletariat, or a strike as delimited as is capitalism, it will be anonymous and terrible.

Okay. As you can imagine, Obamafication in the US has not abolished the dark ages, and the citizens of this society keep hoping against hope for change. Curious, today the global north might be split on its feelings about the free flows of information. Wikileaks, rather than tuition costs—rather than meaningless labor and an equally meaningless “social life”—cause pause for alarm in this country. Don't get me wrong, I don't think that the autonomous elements of the information super highway are the state's only composite hostis, but I think the intelligence of these events shouldn't escape our gaze. The Obama campaign relied heavily on the free flow of information, incorporating the partisans of Web 2.0 into its troops. Today Obama's administration considers using military force against one of the recognized instruments of cyber political crime. One can imagine that those who hacked and attacked Visa and Mastercard as retribution for the arrest of Julian Assange and Brad Manning were also those who voted for hope and change. Someone asked if terrorism was the new paradigm of warfare, forgetting for a moment, that partisan forms have always also contained terror as their content. Today we're forced to consider what is the meaning of purely immaterial combat with material consequences? This is where I am not as well read in Baudrillard as I probably ought be.

After the spring, US anarchists felt their “we are winning” myth drift away. And with the loss of that myth, they also lost touch with the constellation of areas of revolt—the places, bodies, thoughts, and practices that generated a collective sense, or meaning. But once again we are reminded of how both the “we are winning,” and the “we have lost” myths are gaseous, and quickly dissolve without leaving any substance. Greek anarchists do what only the Greek anarchist can do. The French strikes reveal how the French areas of revolt are linked in a tactical feedback loop to Greece, to the US, to Iran, etc. England and the whole Green Isle flare up and remind us that history has not overlooked even the most panoptic societies. In Italy, the author-function literally becomes a shield to hide behind. I'm not interested in simply demanding that we keep finding inspiration in these events. To wave a flag and give backrubs when they are needed does not make a revolutionary force. Being faithful to history requires us to examine these events with suspicion and precision. What will it mean to communicate “we hear the call” each time civil war escapes its sovereign capture? To elaborate the piercing sound of revolt, and make it audible across the borders of identity and nation states. To not fall victim to the feeling that time is running out for us, but hold still the truth that even as we are repressed, it is a sign that time is running out for them.

In November, the FBI sent out a document regarding the domestic threat of “anarchist extremism.” Years before, they decided that ecological and animal liberation extremists were their public enemy. The image of detentions, deportations, and raids quickly arises. We've all felt the looming sense that Auschwitz never ended, and we've been reminded time and time again that this facility easily becomes a prison, this stadium easily transforms into a concentration camp. Katrina, New Orleans must not be forgotten, nor should September Eleven, Chile. Today, the deaths of eight squatters in New Orleans reminds us that Katrina was linked to the murder of the Lower East Side. Bordiga said that disasters were unplanned massacres in Capitalism—unplanned expenditure, where surplus labor was recycled. But fascism is not merely an extreme excess, it is an originary potency of sovereign power. The same operation that produces justice produces mass graves. How do we draw on this history? How does the image of starving ancestors give us strength when the enemy—who will accost even the dead—has never ceased to be victorious? I wonder if one of the defining operations of an insurrectional process in the US would be a constellation of actions that makes these historical tragedies immediately referenceable and contemporary. A friend said sometime in '07 that we want to give rise to that old class hatred, to make the rich, the police and the politicians tremble—to sleep uneasily with the full knowledge that something terrible awaits them—sooner or later. And in '10, the English civil war resurfaces with a resounding “Off with their heads!” Despite Charles and Camillas pouting, we live past the time when kings die. Sovereign power has a lot more to do with the whole of police operations than it does with elected representatives. But in the US we are outmoded and outmaneuvered. We expect to be arrested and imprisoned. We countdown, joking about the End of the world, but realistically anticipating our own political mortality. We have approximately five minutes before the police show up, and if we are not ready to fight them, we must be equipped to withdraw. The whole of what we are fighting for actually depends on this.

Across Europe since I've begun to write this, the Informals return. Their demand, like that of Greek Uprising, is simply a call to participate, but unlike the fierce demand of '08 to join the history taking place, the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire, and the Informal Anarchist Federation's (FAInformal) demand reanimates the partisan, a hero of honor and glory. Take a position in the new urban guerrilla war. We are reminded of the years of lead, but not so much of the Commune. Comrades in France were initially charged with being a part of such a conspiracy, but even what they were alleged was a different tone of sabotage. But what is it about the spectacle of terror that is so salient with our contemporary conditions? As I said in the beginning of this letter, we in the US don't live in the conditions where an armed group is even a hypothesis—even if violence is present everywhere. But the parcel bombs mirror in a small way the armed madness of the isolated Individuals taking their sad acts of revenge in the US. The last two years speak volumes to the terror of everyday life. More students turn their sights on their classmates and teachers. A man, after years of deliberation, crashes his plane into an IRS building as an expression of his desperation and desire for a classless society. A Dean is stabbed and the Governor of MO, who was the main target of the anarchist, escapes his blade. A man takes aim at a Parent Teacher Association. The Discovery Channel is taken hostage and demanded to learn the language older than words at gun point. The media prattle squabbles over the political identity of the AZ shooter. So many disturbed individuals frighten our public consciousness. There is literally nothing that links these strange acts besides their disturbed reality. Would any of this make more sense with a more coherent political pole of violence? I'm not sure. In Europe, a world that hasn't lost its taste for collective approaches to life, the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire and the FAInformal create a spectacle of anarchist terror. Is this armed joy or simply the same desperation and suicidal gesture as its US counterpart? It is difficult to say. I think its important to really think about these events. Many of the criticisms leveled at the Cells of Fire and FAIinformal rely on an ethical detachment from life-harming violence. Other critiques rely specifically on the results of their actions—were they effective? Effective at what? I don't think even the Cells of Fire or FAInformal think their actions cause significant economic damage or create enough of a threat to influence politics. They do openly make the argument that their actions are intended to frighten judges, bosses, politicians, and police. The partisan dignity of the armed group does have its allure, but I don't know if its enough, or if the military logic necessarily subjugates the intelligence of other strategies. From our position, an action's effectiveness should be measured in its ability to spread undocile practices. The spreading of different techniques of resisting authority and domination necessarily includes violence, but it also includes techniques of anonymity, fraud, laziness, co-operations and collective strategic thought. And so, if a thousand hands reach out and pick up the gun, and anonymous attacks proliferate and deepen, perhaps the Cells of Fire and FAInformal are correct. However, I'm not sure where these hands will come from when most people are too frightened, alienated, and disconnected to fight for even the most basic social change. I fear the Cells of Fire and the FAInformal more than likely produce themselves as specialists in a war that most people cannot even perceive. However, it must also be said that they are comrades and deserve critical solidarity. The best way for US anarchists to provide this for them will be in sowing the threads that give those isolated individuals who would sacrifice themselves against the terror of everyday life, a different option for how to fight. To make the war more perceptible, and to critically act in solidarity.

This year will be eventful—we can count on that. US anarchists will not be frightened from their task. However, to you and yours, I think it's important to stress that what you don't see on the news will be more important than what you do see. Many comrades are facing higher charges and more calculated repression. It's important to remember that techniques of repression are not deployed in order to annihilate an enemy, they are deployed in order to attenuate and make us manageable—to discipline and domesticate us. The way we resist this is by finding ways to not be harmed, or destabilized by their threats. In many ways this is why camaraderie and a sense of collective meaning is so important. Because when they begin to perceive us as a conspiracy, we have to know that the worlds we are attached to are caring, powerful, and will keep fighting no matter what happens to us. Through the process of living through this repression, the material solidarities that keep us holding on will be strengthened. We will establish certain bonds of trust and solidarity that come from sharing the intensities of war, from knowing the stakes. The actions that make reference to our comrades who are under attack let us all know we are not alone, and that we won't be neutralized. This is good, but we need to make sure that when the cases are all over the intensities—of our care and our force—are not subjugated by a desire for our collective rest. We need to take the time and consideration to generate our spaces as fighting-territories that welcome home our released comrades, and remind them that we refused to be terrorized while the state attempted to make an example of them. This is all part of the process of resisting repression.

We are now dealing with an advanced environment of repression—a more intelligent apparatus of “conspiracy” production. In these conditions, what constitutes a conspiracy in the eyes of the Law will be increasingly murky. It will be difficult to count on sympathetic jurors because there will be no social movement of which they share sympathies; the means to struggle have already been cut from the legal sphere and have already been judged as “conspiracy.” It comes as no surprise that in terms of public consciousness “conspiracy” rhymes with “terrorism.” However, this does not mean that we should shy away from such conversations that take our objectives and the stakes of struggle seriously. On the contrary, we must be prepared to elaborate this logic and share it. In many ways, this means those of us who have learned the taste for strategic thought must find new ways to share that practice.

More than likely, the events that make up the face of US anarchist practice will only be slightly altered. Some wild demonstrations, bookfairs, night-time attacks and gatherings will continue relatively unscathed by the counter-insurgency operations to come. However, there will be new places that take their position in global civil war. There will be disillusioned students from the East and West Coasts who join up and use their practical education from the occupations to begin a new conflict. Anarchists who learned so much about themselves and what they are capable of during the Oscar Grant riots, will share and apply their lessons during other emergency situations. Those who have dug-in may venture elsewhere, and those who have landed may take over uninhabited spaces, and make them livable. Perhaps research and reconnaissance will give rise to new maps and intelligence of different territories of conflict that we have not yet encountered. Twenty Ten, we experienced some growing pains, but I think we are on our way to finding those truths of which we will not let go. And from these, new worlds will be constructed, and populated. We are collectively learning how to speak and how to breathe together. A disintegrated US will take its part in a global cartography of areas in revolt. Ten thousand Spanish Civil Wars.

I should hope to find my body in the care of your loving arms soon enough,


your devoted comrade,


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