Friday, March 22, 2013

Between Predicates, War | EPub Optimized for Smart Phone Reading

Between Predicates, War: Theses on Contemporary Struggle

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The Institute for Experimental Freedom

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Between Predicates, War | New Pocket Book

“To great writers, finished works weigh lighter than those fragments on which they labor their entire lives”
W. Benjamin

The Institute for Experimental Freedom is proud to announce the release of Between Predicates, War: Theses on Contemporary Struggle. Almost two years in the making, Between Predicates, War is a fragmented collection of theses on our tumultuous situation. From Egypt to the US, Greece to the UK, contemporary struggle announces a revolt against government. These theses draw a line connecting the forces at play, examine their parodic language, affective practices and radically self-annihilating tactics. At the threshold of our epoch and at our phase of self-governance, the events unfolding rub up against the meaning of autonomy, and in doing so ask the question, “What does it mean to live a life?” This uneasy question—and this decade of experiments aimed at answering it—anticipate the formation of a real force. What grew rhizomatically—in subterranean practices of sharing—between anti-globalization and radical environmentalism, between riots against the democratic police and irruptions of occupied spaces, burst through into the open and unpredictable air of the now. At our particular moment there is a chance that—from ancient Athenian democracy to our refined economy of subjectivation techniques—the paradigm of government may come to close.

As we wrote in Politics is Not a Banana, we have no illusions of leading a charge—and furthermore, that's the wrong way to think about the situation. We simply want to understand our conditions, and act accordingly. With humility, a healthy sense of the humors, and the passion, we offer this text as another chapter in this project.

Between Predicates, War: Theses on Contemporary Struggle is a pocket book, of a 100 or so pages, designed with care and finesse, available from LBC Books, or directly from the Institute.

From the Introduction

“Contemporary struggle” is our way to conceptualize what links the events of our epoch—events that cannot be defined as social movements or categorized within leftist conceptions of reform and revolution. Events are the common form that struggles take after the collapse of the historical subject and the zone of the social. We define contemporary struggle as a vast set of heterogeneous practices of revolt that appear to have everything as their object; that is to say, events whose antagonisms are not directed against the state or capitalism per se but against techniques of government, against the productive power of government. Perhaps we will be reproached for reducing the specificity of all the movements of the past decade. However, the velocity with which struggles since the Greek uprising of ’08 have moved from intelligible anger over a collectively perceived injustice to celebratory or revolutionary situations, reveals that they are irreducibly revolts against the paradigm of government.
 Government no longer sits in a closed chamber of educated men; it acts through each of us and through every apparatus that orients us and amplifies our senses in a particular direction. Government doesn't just repress, it produces a distributed multiplication of governable subjectivities. Contemporary struggle resists, flees, and attacks being produced as a subject, appearing in the space between one coherent subjectivity and another.
Because it appears in the space between subjectivities, contemporary struggle—consciously or not—contests the meaning of autonomy. Capitalism has done away with the social as a foundation to human life, leaving the individual as self-entrepreneur to develop solutions to the crises of baseless existence. If social media appears on the theater of culture and politics this is because economic life demands that individuals collaborate on problem-solving. In order to develop itself in harmony with the economy, the individual is allocated the self, as the vehicle and instrument of freedom. It is given the space to think freely, go against the rules, and open doors of creativity—if only to eliminate flaws in the flows of the economy. Government needs subjects to self-govern because principles no longer reign with any authority; the economy needs subjects to self-manage because technology and ecology present fatal limits to its rhythm of expansion. However, when struggles originate in an open field devoid of authoritative principles, the desired affects of self-management sometimes fail to materialize, and in turn the space between coherency, contingency, and predicates can appear more hospitable than the generalized hostilities of economic life. Contemporary struggle locates the space of autonomy as a potential for a different way of living, and holds on for as long as it can.
Contemporary struggle reveals the limits of language. The grammar of justice, democracy, and equality could limit past movements because these terms were situated in a meaningful discourse—that of the enemy. Today, these words and their institutions are empty. What is perceived as logical inconsistency by political pundits is precisely the plane of consistency where a new language is being constructed. The parodic, ironic, and absurd character of today’s movements' discursive promiscuity, irrational application of language, and use of memes reveal a new language coming into being.
Contemporary struggle loves/hates technology. It’s no surprise that the same mobile apparatuses we are required to buy to integrate our lives into the flows of the economy—smart phones, laptops, and tablets—are the media protagonists of the turbulent present.. However, the use of technology by today’s uprisings is no mere affirmation, even in the “Free Information” movement. From hacking to instagram flashmobs, from social networking an occupation to manipulating attention spans, contemporary struggle renders technological apparatuses inoperative in their proper form.
Contemporary struggle will produce the basis for either generalized ungovernability or a more horrific form of government. Social movements from the '60s to the late '90s created the conditions for general self-management; the most radical horizon they could perceive was a world democratically administrated and without work as production. The social movements anticipated the distribution of racial, gender, and sexual subjectivities, freedom as choice, and cybernetics. Today their demands reflect back at us in so many commodities, so many techniques of government, so many empty environments affectively managed by food and retail attendants. Today’s revolt could give way to our dreams or our nightmares.
Available for mail order at LBC Books, and at the Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair.

PDF for viewing here!

List of vendors and events coming soon.

Nothing is too beautiful for the unwanted children of capital,
The Institute for Experimental Freedom | March, 2013

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Murdered By This World

For T and everyone murdered by this shit world.

Soft Sadness a shadow
beckoning me to come towards
a wandering star
so I can turn to dust
and scatter silently over
the earth
into the sun
and down through the
depths of nothing.

3 posters

Monday, April 9, 2012

General Strike With Chaos

Our contribution to the ongoing organizing for the May Day General Strike

11x17- Print ready PDF

And while we're at it... Remember what happened two years ago, before there was a popular movement of occupations, there were short bursts of experimentation and heartbreak (that's not all that was broken). In one such event, an occupied parking garage party “turned violent.” Or rather, an avenue of lost memories, cobbled together with the toil of those who were before us, was enchanted by a terrible spirit. That thin veneer that separates proletarians from every potency of life was violated. Property: shops, art, cars. 1886, that bloody mess, haunted the evening, recalling what was lost: that is to say conjuring a long narrative of the sickening loss of life to value. Those arrested, guilty or not, still await trial, traumatized by the police and this justice of Law. This May Day, may the comrades of the Asheville 11 be in our hearts, and may a terrible spirit enchant this world.

Spring 2012: repair what is irreparable.

How to use this poster:

The poster has been designed for easy black and white xerox printing, and viewing.

In the space marked “Local Meeting Point,” one can add their own information using a marker, or for the tech and design savvy, Open in Adobe Illustrator, check options for outlined text, unless you have Haas Grotesk (Helvetica, with original metal kerning-spaces). The type should be sized from-13-21 and if you don't have Hass Grotesk, probably no one will notice if you use Helvetica.In Adobe Acrobat, Tools, Typewriter. Again choose Hass Grotesk or Helvetica with a bold weight (I'd suggest 75bold). Left Justify to the “L” in “Local” or all the way to Left, at the beginning of the doted line.

And ain't no one gonna get their feelings hurt if you decide a more coherent poster serves you local needs better, but if you do put up some posters we're always happy see some flicks.

General Strike Harder


-IEF Spring, Nearing the End of the World

Monday, February 20, 2012

God Only Knows What Devils We Are

And, as it were, Mr. Chris Hedges

8.5x11 Imposed Pamphlet PDF

Readable PDF

Introduction courtesy of Crimethinc

The past few months have seen a backlash led by professional journalists against diversity of tactics in the Occupy movement. Rebecca Solnit represented our Dear Occupiers pamphlet as “a screed in justification of violence” simply because it endorsed diversity of tactics. Chris Hedges followed up by calling “black bloc anarchists”—an invented category—“The Cancer in Occupy.” Both allege that a violent fringe is undermining the movement and must be excluded from it.

What is taking place here is a kind of silencing. Defining people as “violent” is fundamentally a way to delegitimize them; Solnit and Hedges feel entitled to spread falsehoods about their political adversaries because their goal is to shut them out of the discussion entirely. That’s why Hedges acknowledges he never spoke to anyone involved in a black bloc in the course of composing his diatribe. Perhaps we shouldn’t expect better from journalists with their own wikipedia pages and glamor shots, who have much to lose should popular movements cease to be managed from the top down.

To counteract this silencing, we sought out our comrades from the heart of the black bloc and asked them to tell their side of the story: where they come from, why they participate, how they see the world. We do not accept the terms set by the mudslingers: our intent is not to compete for ideological legitimacy on a battlefield of abstractions, but to foster mutual understanding grounded in personal experience.

Have you ever worn the mask one-two one-two,
(M) to the (A) to the (S) to the (K)
Put the mask upon the face just to make the next day,
Feds be hawkin me
Jokers be stalking me,
I walk the streets and camouflage my identity,
My posse in the Brooklyn wear the mask.
My crew in the Jersey wear the mask.
Stick up kids doing boogie woogie wear the mask.
Yeah everybody wear da mask
but how long will it last

-The Fugees

That’s why I live illegal
All my life I live illegal
Don’t give a fuck bout the law
When my pockets reaching zero
I’m fresh out the ghost town
similar to your town

I’m probably where it goes down
He pretends he tolls down

-Ski Beatz & Freddie Gibbs

For thirteen years, for over a decade, I have donned the black mask. “Seattle”—that word still means “the days the world stood still” to me. “Genoa” still holds more terror and perversity than the North American September 11. In experiencing anonymous collective force, I have gained far more than a diversity of tactics in my tool box. The black bloc is not merely a tactic, as so many anarchist apologists claim; it’s more of an aesthetic development in the art of street confrontation. The black bloc is a methodology of struggle; it goes beyond a single color, and its intelligence reaches beyond the terrain of protests. The black bloc is irreducibly contemporary because only in its opacity can a ray of light from the heavens finally reach us. Allow me to explain.


It’s the summer of 2000. Many of us have given up on both Democrats and Republicans. The sense is that “anti-globalization” poses the only alternative to advanced capitalism. The Democratic National Convention: I am marching, drenched in sweat, through the catacombs that hosted the Rodney King riots. Sadly, the only remnant of those fateful days is a militarized police force that anticipates our every move.

We walk into an enormous play pen—the “free speech zone”—surrounded on all sides by a sea of navy blue wielding pepper balls and batons. Amid the most dreadful speeches and rebellious rock music, we find each other: the stupid, isolated, alienated, and utterly lost children of capital, just beginning our downward spiral—just beginning a precarious life, without promise and without hope.

We organize ourselves at the center and proceed to the margin, where things are unpredictable. Someone climbs the tall fence, reaching the limit of free speech; and then another, and another. A black flag is unfurled, and a figure waves it with pride, claiming this as a site of freedom with that stupid gesture. The pepper balls crash against your skin; they collide against your frail bones, exploding on impact and releasing a furious burning that traps itself in your oily clothes and sweat. The crowd collectively gains intelligence and transforms the signs bearing socialist slogans into shields for cover. We brace each other and press the signs against the fence. Shot with pepper balls, a figure falls from the apex of the fence; arms and femur bones snap against the concrete.

That putrid smell, the eyes glossed over in tears, the stomach churns and nausea overwhelms you. Vinegar-soaked rags help to soak up the poisonous clouds, but you can hear screaming everywhere as the blue tide comes rushing in, and your nerves twist and vibrate as the CS gas and police mutate into a single hostile terrain.

Suddenly, I am with six or ten people. I don't know who. We've found a large road sign and we're lifting it slowly. Plastic bottles soar impotently overhead. A small rock or two hits an officer. We press with what was once our labor power, straining to hurl the worthless product of our grandparents’ toil back at our overseers. The object tilts over the fence and falls to other side: clong. We cheer and revel in our functionless gesture. “Fuck the police” resounds throughout the night, however foolishly. A few bank windows collapse in glittery confetti. Spray paint decorates a wall. We journey to the end of the night; at its perimeter, we share drinks and laughs over our absurd gestures. Finally, back at the union hall, we crash in our sleeping bags, exhausted and dehydrated, to dream of the abolition of capitalism.

I am irreparably transformed.


Lets rewind. Sixteen years ago, I am an adolescent teenager. I have entered Alcoholics Anonymous—somewhat earlier than most of my family. There, I witness one friend’s overdose, another friend’s relapse and subsequent incarceration for manslaughter, and the spread of methamphetamines throughout my neighborhood. I watch Requiem for a Dream some years later, horrified by the cinematic juxtposition of “normal” and “marginal” addiction—it feels so familiar.

I am watching 20/20, an episode exposing Nike sweatshops. Through some extended leaps of logic, I recognize a link between those exploited by sweatshops and my own condition. With this heightened sensitivity, I conclude that

1) addiction has an economic function

2) the economy includes industries that tend to harm people—through exploitation, alienation, and immiseration, the reproduction of addiction being a subset of the last of these

3) the economy tends to hurt people generally.

My initial moral indignation passes; my sensitivity shifts from a moral compass faulting individuals for their choices to something more like class consciousness. The broke-ass cars in the yard appear starker. The drive-by shootings in our neighborhood gain a new meaning. The empty refrigerators' sad grumble reverberating in our empty stomachs, my many stepbrothers’ sweet mullet haircuts—these bring me a certain revelation: I am white trash.

Seattle: the anti-globalization summits and corresponding riots. The beautiful rhythm: work, misery, chaos. They kill Carlo and we meet at the intersection of Colfax and Broadway to block traffic, frantically trying to show our tears and rage. The war. My sister is deployed to Iraq. We wear helmets and anachronistically chant “Bring the war home!” We spray slogans and burn effigies. We block the flows of the metropolis. As if to baptize our newfound agency, we are showered in pepper spray. Tear gas spreads across entire continents. We go from basement hardcore shows to warehouse parties. Our friends learn to DJ. Cocaine comes back into style and claims two victims; heroin gets a few more. The boredom and stupidity is suffocating. We attempt to wrest the noose from our necks. Democracy sweeps Bush back into office. We're trashing a gentrified district of Adams Morgan. My friend records an MP3 of her heartbeat, shouts and heavy breathing accentuated by shattering glass and anxiety.

In the US, we hit a lull. Everywhere else the world burns.

As we get older, we find new ways to survive. A small meeting of coworkers transforms into an ambitious conspiracy. Without making any demands of the boss, we increase our pay and our quality of life. We eat well, we can afford cigarettes, we travel where we want to: Scotland and France, Italy and Germany. Can't stop the chaos.

In Europe, the black bloc means “no media!” I watch a snitch in a tie go down among the kicks and punches of the hooded ones. A car burns. As the police battle two thousand rock throwers, a couple hundred advance through the marketplace, smashing everything. “Tremble Bourgeoisie!” is scrawled across a temp agency service.

Back home, our own temporary involvement in the economy—our precarious life—is reflected in the windows of the temp agency, the retail shop, and the cafĂ©. The image of our desire is captured in the commodities to which we have no access. Our needs are displayed in advertisements that sell us happiness and grocery store aisles that mutate our tastes and relations to other living beings. Smashing, burning, and looting make sense to us in this context like nothing else could.


What Chris Hedges fails to understand about black bloc activity is that it arises from a real need. The “cancer” that Chris finds so disturbing—the contagion of an anonymous collective force—is precisely why and how it continues to outlive every social movement from which it emerges. These generations—we who fantasized about Columbine and now only know metal detectors at school; we who expected September 11 and now only know the politics of terror; we who grew up as the world crumbled all around us and now only know the desert—we need to fight, and not just in the ways our rulers deem justified and legitimate.

As workers, we’re excluded from unions, from collective arrangements of any kind. When we manage to find employment at all, it is meaningless labor that corresponds to our own superfluousness in the economy. We were raised by a generation so thoroughly defeated that it feared to pass on its history. We are the inheritors of every unpaid bill, of every failed struggle, the products of the insanely selfish individualism of advanced capitalism in North America.

Our entire environment feels hostile. Hence our hostility.

Chris Hedges cannot understand this because he misses the real historical conflict expressed in contemporary struggles. As David Graeber points out, his exhumation of the decrepit journal Green Anarchy shows how out of touch he is. The black bloc spreads because of a real need to take back force, which has been monopolized by the police. The black bloc spreads because it is a living practice of collective intelligence, redistribution of wealth, and improvisation; it spreads because it interrupts the ways we are confined in our identities as subjects within capitalism. The black bloc is tuned to the uneasy pulse of our time.

A paradigm of life is coming to an end. The black bloc is irrevocably contemporary because our age of unrest is reflected in this gesture. Populations everywhere are becoming ungovernable and doing so by casting off the fundamental assumptions of government, the techniques of policing, and laws of the economy. The paradigm of sovereignty is collapsing.

To see what is changing, we have to understand the nature of sovereignty. The modern state is founded upon an anthropological fiction of human nature and the surgical extraction of violence from living beings. Thomas Hobbes argued that the establishment of the civil state conveyed the human being from the state of nature—a war of each against all—to the loving arms of the sovereign, rendering him a citizen-subject on the condition that he leave “nature” at the door. But this discourse separates each being from collectivity: the subject of sovereignty is always already an isolated individual. And the arrangement keeps war at the center of the state, as the sole dominion of the sovereign. Ironically, what the subject lays down in return for security—the capacity to use force—is precisely what the sovereign must wield in order to ensure it: and this is wielded above all against subjects.

The form of sovereign power shifted as democratic governments replaced autocracies, but the content of state sovereignty remains. The modern state has shifted from techniques governing territory to techniques governing populations.

It is increasingly difficult to distinguish between totalitarian and democratic governments, as policing is identical under both. The police have the power to let live or take life—biopower—and the distinction between democratic and totalitarian becomes even more muddled as management and medicine also gain this power, determining who can access fundamental human needs. The mediation of capital creates a hellish environment in which practically everyone is integrated into a single hostile terrain, subject to its violence and its justice. If the cause du jouris enunciated as “fuck the police,” this is because the police are the living embodiment of Hobbe's Leviathan, the state that keeps us at arm’s length from our own potential.

“The police” includes all who police; policing is an array of techniques, not all of which demand uniforms. Hedges’ cancer metaphor exposes his penchant for order, translating it explicitly into the language of biopower. Remember how Oakland's Mayor, Jean Quan, and other authority figures used the discourse of health and risk to justify the repression of occupations around the US? Hedges continues this work of policing with his metaphor of an unhealthy social body in need of surgery. Whenever the basic assumptions of sovereignty and capitalism are called into question by those who defy state violence and the sanctity of property, the police are mobilized to discipline them. This disciplining is carried out by both the armed wing and the necktied wing of the police. It’s not a coincidence that Hedges invokes biopolitical language just as a portion of the population is beginning to discover the power of their bodies.

Less than seven years ago, in New Orleans an entire population was forced into a concentration camp by militarized police forces acting on a juridical state of emergency. The ones who did not obey this order could be gratuitously shot down. The justification given during Katrina was the health and well-being of the population. One can't help but notice this same paradigm at work, albeit with less racialized brutality, in the violent evictions of the occupations. Safety, Health, Security: Necessity knows no law. These police actions only deviate slightly from the norm in terms of intensity, frequency, and grammar of “protection.” The deaths of Oscar Grant and Sean Bell attest to the murderous day-to-day operations of the police. The other casualties, the forgotten, continue to haunt every city block, where the police function to eliminate useless surplus—either out of economic utility or biopolitical necessity.

There is no document of civilization that is not at the same time a document of barbarism, as Walter Benjamin spells out in Theses on the Philosophy of History. It is terrifying to face the wreckage of history that constitutes the present. One loses count of the tragedies. Despair, recoded as “happiness,” runs through every aspect of social life, increasingly reflected by Hollywood and ironic television sitcoms as if to anesthetize us.

The arguments for orderly, passive demonstrations by Hedges and other liberal pundits miss all this. One doesn't sweep the floor in a house falling off a cliff. In a world that feels absolutely hostile and alien, every element of social life acquires a sinister glow. In this light, the black bloc appears as a ray of optimism because it creates an opening that leads through to the other side of despair.

The new struggles increasingly take place outside of legitimate and traditional venues. When the factory was the contested site, the workers’ movement was the most vibrant and decisive space of contestation. During the shift from a factory-centered economy to an economy integrating social life, we saw the emergence of social movements contesting social spaces. Now that social life has been fully subsumed within capitalism, the mutant offspring of the proletariat and the counterculture is appearing outside the legitimate parameters of the old movements. This explains the spread of anti-social violence, anomic play, self-destructive revolt, irony. Chris Hedges may wish to turn away his gaze, but society is imploding.

We accept our conditions and get organized accordingly. Compared to the fatal and fatalistic strategy employed by school shooters, terrorists, and isolated individuals marked as insane, the black bloc, rioting, and flashmobs are collective and vital forms of struggle. The Left is obsolete—rightfully so, as it still clings to this collapsing society at war with its population. Society is decomposing and nothing will or should bring back the the good ol' days—the days of slavery, hyper-exploitation of women, apartheid, homophobic violence, Jim Crow. We wager that organizing our antagonisms collectively and attacking this society where we are positioned, without anything mediating our force, is our best chance for a life worth living.

Remarking on how the black bloc assaults the sanctity of property, Chris says “there's a word for that: criminal.” Even here he is behind the times. Once, it seemed that crime designated specific transgressions of the law, such as breaking a window. Today, this fiction is evaporating as crime is openly integrated into the economy. The black market, the gray market, the war on drugs, the war on terror. Branding criminal is not simply a maneuver in a public relations war—though it is that too; crime is the excess of law. Security cameras and Loss Prevention are not there to stop shoplifting and workplace theft any more than borders exist to stop illegal immigration. The designation of criminal is simply one more tool for managing populations, another line along which to divide and exploit.

The cynicism of the justice system is surpassed only by capitalism itself. There’s not enough money circulating any more for us to be fully integrated, so entire economies of ultra-flexible, superfluous, and precarious work have arisen. We don't do anything that appears to matter, but somehow we have to do it all the time. Just to count as people, we have to gain all sorts of stupid commodities—a cellphone, a laptop, a specific knowledge of culture. Because our wages are so low and we work so much, our only options are illicit. Petty drug dealing, sex work, and pirating movies and music have become at once a normal practice for us and a constant opportunity for the police to rein us into the justice industry. The black bloc makes sense to us because it offers an intelligent way to do what we always have to be doing without getting caught.

If Chris Hedges is really concerned about crime, perhaps he shouldn’t praise anything in the movement of occupations. What attracts us to the black bloc is exactly what draws us to the occupation of a public square: all the different people with different experiences coming together to steal back the time stolen from us by work and the spaces stolen from us by ownership and policing, the collective crime of revolt. Hum the national anthem all you want and sing “dissent is patriotic” to the media, but the reality is that anything that breaks with the way things are is categorized in the same sphere of crime as “violence” and treated accordingly. So why not do it together and with intelligence?


Above all, the black bloc is contemporary because it is a site of self-transformation. Even the abused corpse of Gandhi is in accord: if we want to change the world we must change ourselves. To take this further, we might say we have to abolish ourselves.

Capitalism has only managed to stave off revolution by constantly reordering and diffusing social antagonism. At the center of the economy, it is increasingly difficult to distinguish between citizens and police, yet at the same time they appear to be at war with each other. At the margins, everything that once made antagonistic groups into “revolutionary subjects” is extracted—think of the fate of the Black Panthers—and the remaining husk works to gain entrance to the center or manage the disorder of the margins. Only an immediate break with the process by which we become subjects can open a window of potential. This self-transformative gesture is where tactics and ethics meet. If liberal commentators can't handle the implications of this, this just shows the widening abyss between those who would defend citizenship and those who refuse to be governed.

Allow me to elaborate from our side of the barricades.

The black bloc is an anonymous way of being together. Anonymity allows me to shed the mask I have to wear at school, at work, in your parents’ house, in casual conversations at the bar. The black bloc enables us to interrupt the processes that make us into subjects according to race, gender, mental health, physiological health. Here, we can cease worrying about how power will extract the truth from us, and we can reveal truth to each other.

The black bloc assumes an intense ethics of care. Hedges alleges that it is “hypermasculine.” Not everyone who dons the black mask reads feminist and queer theory—Bell Hooks, Judith Butler, Selma James, Silvia Federici, Guy Hocquenghem—but these are extremely influential on our discourse. Had Hedges taken the time to research his subject, he would have found multiple discussions about the gender of anonymity.

Via the black bloc, we open the space to play with power. We radically reverse its operations on our bodies. Casting off the assumption that our bodies need to be protected, that we should give them over to the care of the state, we collectively re-inscribe them as as source of power. We also reverse the notion that freedom ends at the boundaries of individuals. I want you to put me at risk: in this axiom, we find the basis of love, friendship, and death, the three irreducible risks of life.

The black bloc is the site for a new sentimental education: a political reordering of our sentiments. We learn new sensations of love, friendship, and death through the matrix of collective confrontation. In the obscurity of the black mask, I am most present in the world. This unfamiliar way of being compels me to focus and intensify my senses, to be radically present in my body and my environment.

In the black bloc, I have to reconceptualize geographies. The event of the riot gives us a new mobility and space, a laboratory in which to experiment with public space and the relations of property and commodities. Moving through a one-way street backwards, I note how a slight displacement causes the flows of capital to malfunction. The metropolitan environment ceases to appear as a neutral terrain: suddenly I can identify all the ways it functions to channel all activity into a very narrow range of possibilities.

Drifting thus through urban centers, I become attuned to all the apparatuses at work and to how they can be caused to break down. Newspaper boxes and dumpsters can be moved into the street, blocking police from entering the space we are creating. Cars—the individualizing apparatus par excellencecan be put to collective use. All the pretty commodities in the window, usually the breadth of an entire social class away from me, are now a mere hammer’s distance from my proletarian hands. I can move through these spaces in which I am not authorized to be, transforming them. I can dance with mannequins or use them to smash out the windows of a storefront. I can trade the insanity of everyday misery for a collective madness that devastates the avenues of wealth.

For those of us who were excluded from the community of good workers, there is the black bloc. Like the myth of the historical proletarian community, it has no single organization, no membership, no written constitution. Through the black bloc, we find collective power, a sense of camaraderie, a historical tradition of living and fighting. It offers the possibility of immediately changing our conditions and immediately changing ourselves. Those who say it doesn't act in the workplace misunderstand the forms work takes today and where it takes place. The black bloc has been instrumental in the recent port blockades on the West Coast and in the occupations of universities through Europe, the UK, the US, and Chile; the method is constantly being appropriated and adapted. When coworkers outsmart the cameras to take money from the register to share—when the hungry pocket goodies from an expensive health food store—when Anonymous strikes the credit card companies—wherever we use anonymity offensively, there is black bloc.

As I write this, Greece burns yet again, and more of the flexible, unemployed, and immigrant populations appropriate the tactics of the hooded ones—and vice versa. The black bloc can't be cut out of the movement of occupations: there is no surgery that can extract the need for redemption from history, and there is no method better tuned to that task than this vital opacity. On the contrary, the so-called cancer will grow, spread, and mutate—and the movement of occupations, like other movements, will increasingly be indistinguishable from the black bloc.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Oh yeah, we made a snapback hat

The Institute for Experimental Freedom is proud to announce the release of the dumbest commodity we've made as of yet. The Coast to Coast Hoodlums (very) limited edition snapback comes as an ode to all y'all who can't stop gettin ignorant. Even though some dummies are talking their stupid mouths, the rest of y'all are holding it down, wil'n out, and keeping your mouths shut. So ya know, if you wanna buy a black hat with a red bill and trim or something, we got you.

Black/Red "quality" wool-twill
$ 23.00 USD plus shipping
Check out the sweet close up image with bad photoshop shadowing below.


If you reeeeeealy want us to make more of these let us know 
Thanks for the kind comments!

So a bunch of people have said they'd like us to make more. We'll PNDR--who we are apparently advertising just by mentioning (and we understand how ridiculous that is, but hey its 2012)--is having some design contest, and we're trying to avoid having to pay to make more of these, so I guess if you're on that you should go to and vote for this hat, and then we'll get some cash and there will be more sweet hats in the world. And don't worry, we won't tell anyone about your streetwear habits.
Also, let it be known, while we are actually attempting to sell out this particular commodity, we don't endorse paying for things. So if you buy a hat from us, or if we win, from them, make sure to make up for it...

-IEF - 17 May 2012

Sunday, September 11, 2011

These colors still don't know how to run correctly

Ten Years Later

IEF | On a Day of Remembrance for Fallen Heros

9/11, ten years later. Ten years of terror and counterterror—ten years of innocent blood—and the nightmare finally appears to be over. Osama is dead, the war is won[1], and most importantly, a new wave of resistance is sweeping the globe, a resistance that has nothing in common with the terrorists or their enemies. If the most nightmarish aspect of the last decade was its unreality—a dream-world corpse-machine—today's struggles are striking because they are real. This is the moment we have waited for: a moment without distractions, a moment ripe for revolution. And yet, perhaps there is a lesson still to be learned before we close the chapter.

At one level, at least, the terrorists did win. Nobody today thinks of exporting democracy. Not only democracy, but the whole idea of a smooth space of cultural exchange has been thrown into confusion. Without this idea, which was always utopian, it is difficult to believe in the neutrality of the market; at an intuitive level, the "economy" loses its self-evidence. Not that this implies any sort of anticapitalist groundswell. It simply generalizes the knowledge that capitalism is sustained only by continual war. One must be willing to die for the economy. And if not, one must find something else worth dying for. There are a thousand mechanisms for suppressing this knowledge—the attempted reconstruction of the soldier as a computational nexus, the surgical precision with which Osama was eliminated—but they cannot erase it. We saw it on TV.

The dirty wars of the eighties, like the terrorist attacks of the same era, were maintained at a subliminal level, as real events that could be represented or misrepresented, discussed or brushed under the rug by politicians and commentators. One saw the smiling face of Arafat or the Gipper, but not their hands. In our era—which revolves around 9/11 but began some years before—the opposite has been true. The events are their own representation. This was as true for the Seattle black bloc as it was for the embedded journalists in Afghanistan. The magic of 9/11, the sorcery that gave a symbolic act material consequences, was that it took this truth to its conclusions. By becoming a perfect image, it broke the stream of images, and thus broke the stream of events—of nonevents—as no mere event could do. The reluctant nihilist's apology for Al Qaeda, "At least they did something," reveals an unconscious understanding of this fact.

If propaganda is a visible lie pointing towards an invisible truth (if only the truth of consolidated power), pornography is a visible truth pointing towards nothing. The great propaganda event of our century was not propaganda at all. It was a pornographic nightmare that swallowed the world.

Towards the end of the decade, we active nihilists began to catch on. Against a depleted anarchism preaching "back to the community, back to the real," we radicalized the most unreal aspects of the summit protest. It began as secession from activism: do not seek affinity on the basis of political abstractions and their associated imperatives, but on the basis of shared conditions and the desires that inhabit them. Plan B was above all an organizational proposal, a proposal to establish affinity through the immediate gesture of attack. 100-200 = 1000. The exact texture and meaning of the gesture was ambiguous at first; eventually, through experimentation, it revealed itself as the pornographic. Invisibility did not mean merely evading detection, refusing communication; it meant a communication of meaninglessness. Although we did not find strangers spontaneously joining us in the street, we observed a certain resonance among worlds that seemed to make us stronger. This was the second secession: the social terrain of insurrectionary generalization became the image-world, in which spatial and temporal fragmentation mean nothing. "Shared conditions" ceased to mean physical or even social proximity; it meant the universal emptiness that our gesture revealed as act.

The difference between the terroristic strategy and our own had less to do with our squeamishness than with our rejection of professionalization. A central criterion for action: is it reproducible, does it promote or inhibit spontaneous antagonism? We articulated this tactical distinction as a matter of strategic principle, a gulf between ourselves and the theocrats. In retrospect, this was an exaggeration.

September 11 was a Hollywood production, with an executive producer and a massive corporate staff; with the advent of YouTube, Hollywood is passé. Ours is the age of participatory spectacle. Therefore, the tactical departure (or resuscitation) that we attempted was, rather than an internal development of the anarchist milieu, a selective reactivation of possibilities in adaptation to the times. A new iteration of capitalist sociability made a certain theoretical hypothesis realistic, and so we took the torch held out to us. Held out to us by terrorism. We were not the only vector of this historical transmission, but we were one of them. The result, which we witness in London as much as Athens, is a diffuse pornographic intelligence: Osama Spontex.[2]

Our own experiments eventually ran aground on the difficulties of sustaining a project that expresses itself only as emptiness. The secret thread of revolutionary commitment running from event to event did not matter at the level of our social reproduction or our material support base, for the simple reason that it was secret. We dispersed in various directions. Some formed communes, some got serious about Marx, some returned to building the anarchist movement. In every case, we took a step back from the extreme hypothesis. Without abandoning the insurrectionary strategy of rupture, we reinscribed rupture within a logic of continuity.

One might read this experience as a transitional phase in a continuing revolutionary progression. A nihilist moment was needed to clear out the vestiges of liberal, pacifist, and socialist compromise, so that a fighting movement could be reborn, a movement ready for the coming struggles. From a tactical perspective, the militant potential of the antiglobalization movement needed to be isolated and developed so that it could enter into new configurations: anti-austerity and anti-police struggles as the two fronts of tomorrow's class war. Maybe.

On the other hand, this return to bread and butter seems to resonate with a broader trend: the pacification of the image-world. When Greece burned in 2008, it was the European media, not the rioters, who talked of the "700 euro generation." The Greeks called themselves an image, an image from the future—and the generalization and success of the revolt (among Greek cities and towns, and also globally), was achieved at the level of images. In this respect, the more recent Egyptian insurrection was conservative, not only for its rapid recuperation by democratic demands and regime change, but also for its representation as secret, subliminal: everyone knows that what mattered is what happened in the street, away from the cameras; everyone knows about the media blackouts, the inaccessibility of truth. This gives credibility to an equally subliminal strategy for revolution, which limits attack to the real, to the explicable, to the truth suppressed by lies, to the antipornographic—a strategy that meshes seamlessly with the endgame of the counterterrorist decade. Namely, the return to normalcy of a system that digests and commodifies even the abnormal.[3]

The terrorisms will continue, with or without us, ever more diffuse. Certainly, the strategy of subliminal struggle will bear fruit, as surely as the activist strategies of the past. It will find its limit, though, in constructing a social body that can only normalize or exclude the spontaneous nihilism of our time. We do not want to repeat the spinelessness of our earlier excursion, nor do we want to democratize terrorism. But we are not content with this limit.

1 The continuing hostilities in Afghanistan have become yet another multilateral police action, more like Belgrade than Fallujah.

2 Mao Spontex denotes the attempt in post-68 France to elaborate the theory of revolutionary guerrilla warfare without reference to a centralized party-apparatus. Its intellectual expression is exemplified by writers like Deleuze, Foucault, and Guattari. Practically, it is supposed to have influenced (and learned from) the Italian Autonomia. The ideas seem to have affinity with the Invisible Committee's idea of the Party, which (incidentally) also references anomic violence in the terrorist manner.

3 "We didn't do it for the lulz." Anti-austerity is a political abstraction inviting a new activist imperative. It differs from the old anarchist abstraction only in presenting itself as concrete, economic, specific to the times. Anti-austerity action without an anti-austerity ideology might be another matter. Whether or not that's a good idea is another question.