Some scattered toughts on revolt and the attack
Thesis I: We are not at the service of the revolution, the revolution serves us.
Thesis II: The attack acts as a signal conductive to a climate of revolt, its aim is its own reproduction and diffusion throughout the social body.
Thesis III: Anarchism knows no heroes and it knows no monsters. Revolt is to be generalized and spread or it withers and dies.
Thesis IV: The attack should ideally aim to interrupt the reproduction of capitalist normality while simultaneously strengthen the reproduction of the communal mode of being.
How to spread the fire?
This is the question that faces all militants of the social revolution at all times, at every turn. Not because we are missionaries who seek to spread the faith for the sake of this or that religious doctrine, but because we realize that the only way we, both as individual militants and as the collective human species, can break free from the chokehold of State and Capital is through collective refusal and resistance. Though someone once correctly said “You can’t blow up a social relationship”, you most certainly can’t talk it away or wait for it to wither away either. Capitalism is a social relationship and so is the state. They are not inanimate organs hovering above society but they exist within our daily activity. It is the daily activity of the tribesmen that reproduces the tribe (both materially and socially) as much as it is our daily activity that reproduces state and capital. As such, the gesture of saying “NO!” and halting this process of reproduction, replacing it with the reproduction of other, communal modes of being requires mass participation. This is why we should; yes even need, to spread the fire of revolt. For alone we will be crushed between the unflinching gears of history, no matter how hard we struggle, no matter how hard we preach, no matter how hard we strike back.
This piece is concerned with one area of militant activity: signals of disorder, the acts of sabotage and revolt by groups of political militants and how they fit within the bigger revolutionary scheme. We refuse the false dichotomy of mass action or clandestine sabotage, favoring one or the other. We see both as integral and necessary parts of a bigger process and seek to explore the complications of one of those parts.
Burdened by the absence of billions
Thesis I: We are not at the service of the revolution, the revolution serves us!
So, what is there for us lonely souls, burdened by the absence of billions? Though the ‘end of history’ might have come to an end itself and the thin polished veneer of this society seems to show more and more cracks with every passing day, the social revolution still remains a tiny, hypothetical spec on the horizon. The sheer weight of the project seems to break our backs. The negation of state, capital, of wage-labor, markets, work and leisure as separate spheres of life, etc. in short: Anarchist communism is a project that requires upheaval of a scale and intensity incomparable to anything we have seen in our lifetimes. It thus becomes easy to get lost in the fog, to lose sight of the path and wander off into the endless misty bog that lies beyond.
Some simply shout ‘more actions, more propaganda, more recruitment, more conferences, more demonstrations’, seeking to build revolutionary mass-movements through the sheer willpower of a handful of militants, inevitably burning out or simply sliding into acceptation of any mass-movement, revolutionary or not, to satisfy their quantitative fetish. However, it is not the quantitative growth of more projects but their coherent interweaving that is most promising, it is a question of exploring how various struggles at work relate to those in our neighborhoods and how they, in turn, relate to the struggles around gender, race or the environment. How they strengthen one another and can merge into a coherent project of total subversion. It is not a lack of quantity that should be overcome by revolutionary militants (something which they can do very little about) but a lack of quality, of asking the question ‘what role does something play in the greater revolutionary project? How does it contribute to our strength?’ and answering this question materially.
Others adjust their orthodoxies, shift from one segment of the working class to the next as the ‘new revolutionary subject’, forever chasing ghosts, while some make a complete retreat into theoretical obscurity, cementing themselves in dry materialist determinism preaching that nothing can or will happen until the ‘entire proletariat is ready and aware of its historical mission’. Yet, though the broad social mass can be described fairly adequately by the laws of historical materialism, its throbbing rhythm inoperable by the militant, it is not governed by it as if under a spell of hypnosis. Its actions are still its own (though within the limits of the social structure) and the staunch preachers of waiting until the time is right often find themselves caught by surprise at the sudden movement of the ‘dormant’ social body.
Then there are the activists who, not unlike the movementists, see revolution as the direct product of the activities of militant minorities. They hop from counter-summit to counter-summit measuring their power and gauging their strength through the spectacle’s bright reflections on the TV screens. They aim to build an international network of revolutionaries, to mobilize comrades and ‘build the movement’. Yet, to what purpose? More of the same? To gather mass for the sake of gathering mass? Surely we are not Leninists in search of converts, followers or pawns but are looking for brothers and sisters to fight alongside of and build a community with against state and capital.
In the same vein stands the isolated urban guerrilla, the propagandist of the deed who seeks to ‘arouse the masses from their sleep’, who wishes to ‘set an example and strike back’, putting all her hopes on the intensity of her actions. Tired of the failures of the politics of quantity associated with the activists and movementists, she retreats (unknowingly) into another politics of quantity. How many windows were broken this week? How many cars were set on fire this month? How ‘hard’ did she strike back this or that time? The urban guerrilla seeks to replace the ‘passive masses’ as the revolutionary subject by putting herself at the full service of the revolution, by compensating for the absence of billions by striking harder as an individual.
Yet, it is not us who ought to be at the service of the revolution, but the revolution which ought to be at our service. The revolution is not some grandiose event in a far-off future, a post-modern storming of the winter palace to which all previous activity leads up and after which we’ll be in the land of milk and honey. Neither is it the process leading up to some imagined ‘intermediary stage’ which is neither Capitalist nor communist but still operates for ‘the good of all’ as the Leninists would hold it. The social revolution is a protracted process of increasing re-appropriation of our lives, it is the gradual and direct abolition of the reproduction of capitalism and its replacement by the reproduction of communal relationships. Effectively, capitalism is not abolished for communism, but by communism.
This process starts in our own lives, which are at nobody’s service but our own. We do not ‘serve the people’ or ‘live for the revolution’ like some perverse remnant of the Christian martyrdom fetish. We despise capitalism precisely because it denies us the potential of a full human life, a communal way of being. The process to abolish this state of affairs, the revolutionary process, can thus only be experienced as the process to establish another state of affairs, to put the revolution, and thus ourselves, at the service of ourselves. This is our point of departure.
Broken windows, Burning Hearts
Thesis II: The attack acts as a signal conductive to a climate of revolt, its aim is its own reproduction and diffusion throughout the social body
How can acts of sabotage, of revolt by a minority of political individuals or groups, in short: the attack, contribute to such a complex and necessarily mass-based project? And more importantly, how do they relate to the questions of vanguardism, of the rejection of revolution as an exercise in martyrdom?
First of all we must rigorously question the logic of the pure quantity. When is the mass in ‘mass struggle’ a mass? Is it 100 people? 1000? One million? It is not easy to answer this question but neither is it necessary. The potency of mass struggles from a revolutionary point of view lies not in their quantitative aspect. Millions can march for reformist or even reactionary demands, all well within the limits of capitalism without any prospect of breaking out of those bounds. Similarly, small conflicts can easily become focal points for militant resistance that soon challenges the logic of capitalism and seeks to go beyond. The true potency of mass struggles, then, lies in the fact that if they do manage to transcend their own limits, they are more likely to spread then small and isolated struggles. Spreading, the reproduction, extension and intensification of the struggle throughout the social body, is what makes it valuable.
This holds for acts of a minority nature as well. Where collective action can lead to self-organization, rupture and the construction of ties of mutual aid and solidarity that transcend the initial demands of the action, minoritarian actions usually lack this prospect. However, when they do spread, they can begin to express a sort of unspoken solidarity through action. It can never be a substitute to ‘mass action’ but neither can it be ignored or brushed off as ‘individualist adventurism’ as the Leninists would like to do.
The attack or ‘personal act’, for lack of a better word, is direct action of a minoritarian nature. It exists outside the direct experience of mass action (such as the strike, the occupation, the riot) but can be connected to it and aim to strengthen and support it. It covers such things as the sabotage, the clandestine spray painting or leafleting and the expropriation. It can be undertaken by a conscious political minority or as an act of spontaneity in the class struggle undertaken by workers who fight in the absence of a combative mass.
There are multiple reasons why the attack can be crucial in the construction of a climate conductive to revolutionary mass action. There is nothing more conductive to passivity than passivity. This goes for groups as well as individuals. When people are conditioned to be obedient, to keep their heads down, to never say no and to expect the same from society at large, all thoughts of revolt will be relegated to the realm of personal fantasy. “I’ll probably stand alone”, “Nobody does anything anyway”, “I don’t think I’d be able to resist anyway, I wouldn’t be able to pull it off” are the thoughts that accompany such an atmosphere. Acting, whether on small or mass scale, requires confidence. And true revolt, as opposed to harmlessly orchestrated venting of discontent, requires a high level of confidence, experience in fighting back (both materially and psychologically) and a sensitivity to possibility of others having your back, of the act of resistance being normalized. Because as long as resistance is marginalized and invisible, it will never be the primary point of reference for discontent. Winning these things is possible through the attack.
In the article ‘Signals of Disorder: Sowing Anarchy in the Metropolis’ A. G. Schwarz inverts the so-called ‘broken windows’ theory of policing. The Broken Windows theory originates from policing sociologists James Wilson and George Kelling. Their theory got implemented by New York’s ‘zero tolerance’ Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and soon spread around the rest of the US in the mid ‘90s only to reach Europe at the turn of the millennium. Broken Windows holds that within the urban environment, there exists a norm setting and signaling effect related to disorder, vandalism and additional crime and ‘anti-social behavior’. The theory states that monitoring and maintaining urban environments in a ordered and disciplined fashion as well as having a zero-tolerance policy on minor ‘crimes’ such as graffiti and loitering, will signal the presence of the forces of order and control in a certain geographic area and discourage further transgressive behavior, including riots and serious crime. In an urban environment where people have little direct social connection, people will look for signals within the environment to discern social norms, the risk of getting caught and the general atmosphere. Broken windows holds that a ‘clean, ordered and regularly monitored’ environment signals that there is a heavy state presence and deviation from the norm will not be tolerated, thus discouraging deviance and encouraging conformity. This theory is extended through the practice of ‘Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design’ where urbanism is employed at the service of state control. The history of such practices dates back to at least the redesign of Paris, where in the aftermath of the Paris Commune the entire city was redesigned with new broad roads reaching all corners of the city to allow easy access to the military and its cannons in case of a new insurgency. The ideal model for such a society would be Bentham’s panopticon prison, where everybody is observable at all times by the central tower of power, never knowing when they are monitored and the sheer paranoia of power’s gaze forcing them to self-police themselves into obedience. From the abundant use of spacious courtyards, over-present artificial lighting, the reduction of points of entry and exit and the restriction of ‘private activities’ to private areas to omnipresent CCTV, urbanism aims at a mix between 1984-style ‘big brother is ever present’ and a Stepford Wives-esque ‘citizen-surveillance’. As anarchists, we should thus never underestimate the signaling function of the urban terrain when it comes to subverting the state.
There exists a sizeable body of criticism regarding broken windows, mainly pointing out it easily falls prey to correlation-based reasoning fallacies. This, however, misses the point. The state is not so much interested in reducing ‘crime’ as such but in social control and the extension of its eyes and arms, its lifeblood. Broken windows facilitates the microscopic monitoring of every aspect of daily life in order to normalize it, to smoothen the social fabric along the lines of passivity, compliance and ‘productivity’.
The reverse holds as well. As anarchists, we wish to break the iron grip of this leviathan. We wish to throw off the yoke of the state’s arms and blind its all-seeing gaze. Minor acts of disturbance, revolt and sabotage thus have effects beyond their direct material impact. The interrupt the narrative of social peace, of ‘everything is OK, nobody complains and we all voluntarily submit to whatever is going on’. They act as signals which denote the possibility, even ease, of attack. They are, if presented without vanguardist pretensions, an invitation to join the dance. They materialize our critique in practical, touchable acts, a critique which cannot be brushed off with a snarky comment because it already exists in the streets, with the risk of contagion looming beneath the surface. As pointed out in Schwarz’ article:
In a neighborhood where the walls are covered with anarchist posters, beautiful radical graffiti stands alongside all the usual tags, advertisements never stay up for long, the windows of luxury cars, banks, and gentrifying apartments or restaurants are never safe, and people hang out drinking and talking on the street corners and in the parks, our ideas will be seriously discussed outside our own narrow circles, and the state would need a major counterinsurgency operation to have just the hope of uprooting us. Whenever we can break their little laws with impunity, we show that the State is weak. When advertising is defaced and public space is liberated, we show that capitalism is not absolute.
A.G. Schwarz points out that when the attack links itself to a recognizable, continuous social practice, is explicit in its critique and refuses to present itself as ‘acting in the name of’, it cannot be simply lost amidst the static noise of urban vandalism and the eccentricities of daily life we see around us. This, coupled with spreading the ‘how’ next to the ‘why’, will lower the barrier to reproduction of such acts to whoever feel compelled to do so. These signals can attract others who also want to have an impact upon their own world, who desire to strike back against whatever particular aspect of capitalism it is that is destroying them. Whether it is a group of fired workers who wish to strike back at their former boss or recently evicted renters who have had it with their landlords, seeing a continuous string of acts around you which signal: “Its okay to attack, its easy and you’re not alone” will certainly bolster people’s confidence, especially if their struggle is further backed up by the concrete solidarity of such acts.
Let Sherwood forest cover all of Nottinghamshire!
Thesis III: Anarchism knows no heroes and it knows no monsters. Revolt is to be generalized and spread or it withers and dies.
However, it is important to remember that the attack alone is far from sufficient when it comes to revolutionary activity. Apart from the fact that only revolutionary mass action can make a final break with capitalism, the attack alone is not sufficient in fostering a climate conductive to the conditions that shape such mass action. Quoting Schwarz:
But at the same time, we cannot make the mistake of exaggerating the importance of the attack, of signals of disorder. At times it may be necessary to be a gang, but if we are ever only a gang, if at any point only our antisocial side is visible, we are vulnerable to total repression. There is a lot of rage circulating, without an adequate outlet, which we resonate with through our attacks. But there is equally a lot of love that is even more lacking in possibilities for true expression. People desire the community and solidarity that capitalism deprives them of, and our way out of this labyrinth of isolation is to go looking for the others and meet them where they’re at. To encounter people, in our search for accomplices. Except in the magical space of the riot, we cannot safely find spontaneous accomplices for the attack. But in the stultifying oppression of everyday, we can find accomplices to share in the little gestures of defiance, the small tastes of the commune we are building — a random conversation, a flyer someone is actually interested to read, the passing around of a stolen meal, collaboration in a community garden, the giving of gifts.
The anarchists must simultaneously be those who are blamed for acts of startling indecency, of inappropriate extremism in all the right causes (“they burned four police cars at our peaceful march!”) and those who are around town cooking and sharing free communal meals, holding street parties, projecting pirated movies on the sides of buildings, running libraries and bicycle repair shops, and appearing at protests (“oh look, it’s those lovely anarchists again!”).
We will be safest from the right hand of repression and the left hand of recuperation when everyone is thoroughly confused as to whether we are frightening or loveable.
In Greece, the spectrum of different insurgent activities employed by Anarchists is wide and doesn’t focus repetitively on broken windows or graffiti on buildings. One public activity is the supermarket expropriation, where 20 or more so-called ‘Koukoulofori’ (‘hooded ones’) run into a major supermarket, fill up baskets full of food, get out there in under a minute (with some comrades ensuring the doors stay open and unobstructed) and drop the food off in a park or other public space within a couple of blocks where folks are gathered, and then disappear. Similarly, other groups would temporarily sabotage the entry gates to metro and train stations so anyone who passes through can enjoy free public transportation. Other activities include the public dismantling and destruction of surveillance cameras. These acts are similar to the large-scale ‘self-reduction’ employed by the Italian autonomist movement in the ‘70s, where large groups of students and commuters would collectively enter trains or trams and refuse to pay, or entire neighborhoods would go on indefinite rent-strikes.
In the year before the December 2008 uprising, more and more expropriations in the supermarkets were undertaken. Usually, a few people would talk to the supermarket workers and customers, calming everybody down and saying that this was a supermarket expropriation, that this was an act against the private property of the supermarket chain and nobody was going to get hurt or robbed of their wallets and that all food would be distributed for free. The expropriations were usually undertaken close to open air markets when lots of people were outside shopping, that way the expropriation group wouldn’t have to go far to find a place where lots of people were gathered and usually when people saw the group approaching with the carts full of food they would should “It’s them! It’s them!” before happily taking the food and these acts of expropriation being applauded. Those people learned not to be afraid of the Koukoulofori, the ‘masked anarchists dressed in black’ and this was a major factor in people standing next to them during the uprising and the various riots that followed.
What should be avoided, however, is our activity being purely conductive to the spectacle. When our practice of attack becomes nothing but something ‘those guys do’ or, at best, ‘our saviors showing the bosses enough is enough’ and our practice of liberation becomes a modern-day reenactment of Robin Hood, we are steering in dangerous Bolshevik territory. The danger here is not only limited to the well-known vanguardist trap of specialization and the formation of new elites but also brings with it the spectaclist distinction between actor and viewer. When we are the only ones who act (not per se at a given time, but categorically), the only ones who are expected to act, others will remain passive and reproduce the very system we act against. The destruction of passivity and moving towards activity is the precondition for the revolutionary process. A coup can be pulled off by a small group of conspirators, the transformation of all social relations cannot. The self-emancipation of the proletariat is the collapse of capitalism. This is a collective act of will.
The revolutionary does not expropriate simply in order to give to the poor, like the French Maoists of the late ‘60s who stole caviar and distributed it to the workers and immigrants in order to ‘serve the people’ and propose themselves as the saviors of the working class. The revolutionary expropriates to satisfy a social need for the revolution. This can be the personal need to survive and re-appropriate one’s own life as well as his action being conductive to the spread of such acts in general. So we should not simply be ‘those guys who fetch the food for us’ but we should explain and make clear why we do it, how we do it and that the success of such acts (and the full re-appropriation of the social wealth by the proletariat) completely depends on others joining in, in taking action yourself, for yourself. Our actions ought to show that abstract social entities that tower over our lives, like ‘the state’, ‘banks’, ‘employers’, etc. have precise structures and exist materially and can be acted against, not by others but by ourselves. To collectively act for ourselves, and realize our own joy together.
Out with the austerity of the cloister of self-denying militancy! Out with the dusty tomes which preach only patience and calculated punishment to come! If a page does not speak of joy, real concrete joy and not some pile of ethereal wealth laid down in the 21st century variant of heaven to come, tear it up! We don’t want heroes and martyrs or monsters.
We must make clear that someone who decides to act is not some mythical beast towering above ‘the masses’. They are simply a person who has clarified their ideas, realized enough is enough and chosen to act, to add a tiny marble to the pile of rocks that come crashing down at the old world. And in doing so, they heal themselves a little. The realize their potential as human beings, the reign of powerlessness and passivity lifts a little before their eyes. Not much perhaps, but there is joy in that moment. And joy is contagious. It spreads like fire on a dry prairie. The community of joy thus forms spontaneously, in the interweaving and reproduction of various acts temporarily suspending or alleviating the negative consequences of what seem individual problems (alienation, poverty, work, sexism, etc.) and linking them together into a real, totalizing critique.
In similar vein, we must avoid the pitfall of the spectacle-fetishist or militarist, who only measures activity in the amount of newspaper clippings he can harvest or the number of dollars damage done. Those who tail intensity at all cost, who mindlessly chase depth, soon lose track of breadth. And, as pointed out numerous times, however much we might want to, capitalism cannot be taken apart through the sheer force of will displayed by militant minority groups. After the burning of the Reichstag by Van der Lubbe, the Dutch council communist Anton Pannekoek observed that the personal act, that is the act undertaken by a minority, has a complicated relationship to the mass nature of proletarian revolution.
There is a certain current running in history where individual actions, in moments of tension, are like sparks on a powder keg. But the proletarian revolution is nothing like the explosion of a powder keg. Even if the Communist Party strives to convince itself and convince the world that the revolution can break out at any moment, we know that the proletariat must still form itself in a new manner to fight as a mass. [..]But the mass, after all, is composed of individuals, and the actions of the mass contain a certain number of personal actions. Certainly, it is here that we touch on the true value of the personal act. Separated from mass action, the act of an individual who thinks he can realize alone something great is useless. But as part of a mass movement, the personal act has the highest importance. Workers in struggle are not a regiment of marionettes identical in courage but composed of forces of different natures concentrated toward the same goal, their movement irresistible. In this body, the audacity of the bravest finds the time and place to express itself in personal acts of courage, when the clear comprehension of others leads them towards a suitable goal in order not to lose the gains. Likewise, in a rising movement, this interaction of forces and acts is of great value when it is guided by a clear comprehension that animates, at this moment, the workers which is necessary to develop their combativity.
Though Pannekoek remains a skeptic regarding minoritarian action outside of a context of ‘mass comprehension’ of these acts, he touches upon the fact that the mass is but a body of many individuals and realizes, unlike his Leninist detractors, that the proletariat is not a regiment of marionettes who march in line to the same drumbeat. He also recognizes the subtle dialectic between the personal act and the mass movement, the contribution of audacity, inspiration and the potentially reciprocal joy that emanates from such acts. Thus, we must always keep in mind how our acts contribute to their spread throughout the social body. For the joy of our acts to be reciprocal, they must be easily reproducible. They must resonate throughout the social fabric, hit a sensitive spot and solicit a response. They must pose the irresistible answering of “Yes, and” from those who read, hear or see our acts. They must slowly start playing a tune to which one cannot resist joining the dance.
The greatest difficulty that confronts us in seeking to create such a new praxis is the establishment of new types of human relationships conductive to an active stance in life. The forces of society exert an immense and omnipresent pressure against such an effort. But unless we accomplish this we will never escape from the specter of the vanguard. The demand for the participation of everyone, though not in a literal sense or at all times, is not some abstract ideal but an absolute practical necessity for social revolution and the content of a new society. People’s creativity and participation can only be aroused through a collective project that is explicitly concerned with all aspects of the lived experience, that exposes the appalling contrast between the potential of life and the present material and social poverty. This goes for the praxis of revolutionary organizations which seek to foster mass action as much as it goes for those groups of comrades who choose to create a fertile climate where the seeds of mass action can come to bloom through acts of attack and liberation. Let’s bury Robin Hood, let’s all be the merry men and let Sherwood forest cover all of Nottinghamshire!
Navigating the metropolitan Labyrinth
Thesis IV: The attack should ideally aim to interrupt the reproduction of capitalist normality while simultaneously strengthen the reproduction of the communal mode of being.
So, what next? How to leave the labyrinth? Where and how should we eventually direct our acts?
In order to subvert the metropolis, we have to understand her. When we speak of the metropolis, we refer to the group of territories and devices (both technological constructs such as transportation networks and social institutions such as the police and judiciary apparatus) which are animated by an overarching network of command and domination. The metropolis spans the urban core, the suburban blight and the rural periphery (where the latter still exists) because all are interconnected through rapid-acting networks of transportation, communication, commerce and policing. Raw materials extracted from the countryside and hills are transported to the urban industrial zones to be processed by a labor force imported from the suburban zones by underground transportation networks, the final product being sold and shipped overseas and the profits being transported to offshore accounts through the ethereal networks of a digitized economy. As soon as the suburbs burst open with the accumulated violence of decades, the watchful eyes of the state turn from the urban core and its glass towers to the derelict high-rises and deploys its armored fist through the smoothly functioning railway system. The TV crews leave their white picket fence homes for the motorway and arrive at their offices in the core to be dispatched to the scene of the riot, sending a spectacle of sound bites and images back to televisions in the rural homes next to the mines of the hillside.
The metropolis exists everywhere because it is not a geographical zone but a paradigm, a form of management by the state which circulates through the interconnected bodies it is transposed over. The metropolis exists in the state’s attempt to connect and continuously reconnect a fragmented society because the circulation of capital, raw materials and labor is crucial to the accumulation process and reproduction the capital relation. Thus, deviance, the social separation of the ghettos, the process of assimilation, social re-entrance of the unemployed and former offenders, it all serves to keep the clock ticking. When things fall apart, the prime concern of the twin-headed hydra of State and Capital is the continued reproduction of the social relations that form its basis, that guarantee domination’s continued existence and the continuity of surplus extraction. Hence, domination’s interventions take the shape of social programs which produce certain types of relationships beneficial to its reproduction.
In the ghettos they make appeals to the Islamic clerics and their conservative authority, hoping that under the guise of Islam they can shape relationships which promote self-sacrifice, obedience and a respect for state and private property.
‘Lost Youth’ are provided with social centers which aim to deploy their ‘artistic skills’, ranging from graffiti to skateboarding and underground music, in an entrepreneurial fashion, stimulating the tendency to immediately commodify our every activity.
Political activists are encouraged to take part in ‘social partnerships’ and conventions on ‘corporate responsibility’ and the other blood-drenched masks Green Capitalism wears.
Therefore, those zones which cut themselves off, drive back the military occupation force of the police, become opaque to the state’s all-seeing eye or simply refuse to cooperate or communicate any longer are subjected to counter-insurgency operations composed of a mix of soft and hard measures. Armies of sociologists, youth workers, psychiatrists, ‘renovators’ and politicians descend to analyze the ‘problem’ and desperately try reintegrate lost territory into the metropolitan apparatus with words, prescriptions, derisions and gentrification. When that fails, the satin glove reveals the iron fist below and the missionaries retreat to reveal the lines of riot cops, ‘anti-gang squads’, state intelligence informants and property speculators behind them. Everywhere the missionary’s cross fails to subject the colony, there is a conquistador behind it to guarantee submission.
Metropolitan struggles erupt everywhere from anti-gentrification struggles in the urban heart of Germany and the USA, landless peasants occupying acres of property in South America to Bangladeshi garment workers being sick of it all and burning their factories and French banlieu youth and the anarchists of Athens’ Exarchia forcefully removing police occupation from their territory. All these struggles share the common aspect of breaking up the metropolitan links, hindering the smooth operation of the integrated mechanisms of circulation, repression and accumulation.
The blocking tactic, as employed by the Argentinian Piqueteros in 2001, the French protesters against the CPE in 2006, the Greek barricades of December 2008 and the Spanish miners in the Asturias struggles of 2012 is essential to the effectiveness of spreading a paralysis of control, a circulation block and suspension of the reproduction of capital. Blocking the ‘normal’ state of affairs breaks up the reproduction of daily life and frees up space, at least temporarily, to start building different modes of being. If the Occupy movement in the USA, and Occupy Oakland in particular, have shown us anything it is that the conquest of physical space can only have value if it is used to halt the normal state of affairs and if it is conductive to our own strength. Rather than a symbolic act of protest, the occupation of space should be seen and used as a tactic of reconquest. As the French revolutionaries of May ’68 said: Barricades close the streets but open the way! When the broad variety of metropolitan struggles are chained together in their collective interruption of the reproduction of normality, they show the potential for insurrection and allow for a comprehensive strategy overtaking territory.
The development of such a process requires the construction of structures and a diffusion of practices which directly challenge the reproduction of capitalist relationships while at the same time broadening and deepening the generalizing communal relationship. The development of such structures, from autonomous zones and social centers to combative communes is a protracted process which brings with it the re-appropriation of territory and control over the social wealth and means of production as well as the severing of links within the metropolitan network. It is the communist tendency in practice, as a real movement. New social relations which are the foundation of a new society can be formed only in the growing absence of the capital relation and its mediation through the state, requiring the seizure of the means of existence to serve as a primary base of the reproduction of the communal relationship. The goal of revolutionary organizing thus does not lie in the achievement of temporary gains, scraps from the master’s table, but in the development of social forces capable of escalating the conflict and rupturing with the capital relation. One of the necessary tasks is to escalate existing tensions into a rupture with the general fabric of commodity society. Another task is the development of existing tensions into a social force capable of offensive expropriation. The seizure of land, buildings, food, electricity, machinery and infrastructure through operations that combat police occupation (as the clearest material expression of state power) and seek to inhabit the newly expropriated terrain with qualitatively different social relations.
From this, we can conclude that we must direct the efforts of the attack towards a tendency that interrupts the processes of circulation and reproduction, to strike in a fashion that disrupts and at those points of the capitalist machinery which resonate most with us and have the potency to cause a ripple throughout the social body at large. Without forgetting that we are but simple ants in the turning of history’s gears and not the grandiose vanguard of dead Leninist lore, let us contribute where we can. For rage and for joy. Together, for ourselves. Let us depart from our own hearts’ desires, against that which disgusts us and holds us down and for that which we hold dear. Let us meet others where they are at and hope that our acts contribute towards a beautiful crescendo of disobedience! We do not offer blueprints or stale programs ripe only with dust. The convergence of our acts will materialize the real, concrete opposition to the current state of affairs and will present ‘the program’ as a real movement.
The attack must operate like an improvised concert. At first, the entire concert hall is silent, spectators and musicians alike, nobody moves. Then, someone begins to play. A slow violin starts improvising a tune. The tune resonates with one of the other musicians who joins in with his singing voice, soliciting a response from some members of the public, touched by the spontaneity of it all. Soon, the entire concert hall is buzzing with a rhythm without script, each new note seducing an as of yet passive onlooker, blurring and eventually abolishing the distinction between spectator and musician in the collective symphonic orgy. An orgy of the ear that composes its own rhythm, that evades sheet music and spits in the face of the conductor, truly a symphony without composers. So join this dance of joy, let the throbbing heartbeat of the new world spark our rhythm and the crumbling of the old world our be percussion. Let us show what our words are worth, Hic Rhodus, hic Salta!
Signals of disorder: Sowing anarchy in the metropolis – A.G. Schwarz
20 Theses on the subversion of the metropolis – Plan B Bureau
Instructions for an insurrection – Internationale Situationiste
The personal act – Anton Pannekoek