Agustin García Calvo's works, creations, continue to live and to animate others. His wisdom now acts as a source, from which many can draw sustenance. Having earlier marked his passing (Agustin García Calvo: His passing and his presence), we now invite an engagement with his writing …
What follows is a partial translation of one of a series of texts posted on the website of the CNT of spain, celebrating García Calvo's life. In this instance, it is an interview with him.
Contra la realidad
The last interview with Agustin García Calvo in the periódico CNT (nº 324 – Junio 2006).
M.C. García y P. Nacarino
Question: What is reality, how does it affect us and how can we struggle against it?
Response: Firstly, the term does not belong to everyday language, it is a term invented by the schools of theologians, that of Reality, so as to apply it to God, that had to be the Reality of all Realities. What then happened was that this term of the schools was so successful that many people from different walks of life declared that this or that was Real, that this really happens, that Reality is like this, my dear, and similar affirmations. By which it is then necessary to attack also using this word, this relatively cult like word which can contribute to, as all cult terms generally do, to the errors of people who adopt them without thinking too much about the matter. The verb that corresponds to this term is to exist, so that one may comfortably say that Reality is that which exists. Being similarly both a theological and cult word, it has nevertheless also extended greatly everywhere, and people say everywhere, it exists, even substituting the true more common expression that is to be [Garcia Calvo here employs the Spanish word hay, the impersonal form of the verb haber meaning there is or there are. Spanish may employ three different words for the English to be: ser, estar, haber. The first suggests the nature or essence of a thing – Garcia Calvo’s theological reality. The second word points to the condition of a thing. Whereas the last word points to something’s mere existence, and is often used impersonally], “there is [hay] such and such a thing”; one says, instead, “there exist probabilities”, “there are obscurities here”, “persons exist”; therefore then both [existir and haber] must be challenged at the same time. To clarify myself in this opposition, what I say is that we use to exist, and therefore Reality, in the same way when we refer to that which is [lo que hay], but at the same time it is that which is [lo que es]. But in this second moment, it is necessary to have the word to which the thing corresponds. For example, for roses or humans to exist, it is not only necessary that there are or will be such things, as you will discover, but that it is also necessary that you believe that they are what they are. Such that one requires the word rose or the word human to be assured of this. And it is this marriage between what is [lo que hay – mere existence] and what is what it is [lo que es lo que es – existence of a specific kind] that I call Reality, Real. And it is against that which exists that language throws itself constantly, through me or through anyone else.
Q: How does it affect us and how can we struggle against it, if one can in fact struggle against Reality?
R: What has to be clarified is that, naturally, who struggles against Reality cannot be anybody Real. This is so obvious that it is sufficient to state it. For example, someone, someone as a person, someone as a Real person, cannot be less than subject to Reality, such that it is vain to believe that one can personally do anything against Reality. Someone is a slave, someone is a subject; the State and the Person are the same thing, etc. Down this path one can thereby hope for little. The attack against Reality can therefore only come from outside Reality, that is, from something which does not exist, because what exists, and whatever exists is condemned to defend its Reality, and consequently defend Reality in general. There is no other possibility. Something which does not exist is significant because, contrary to what is imposed upon us, it is the discovery that Reality is not all that there is. The notion of the whole is foreign to Reality, and therefore from Above there is the pretention that it is not, that Reality all of the Universe, that it is a kind of totality, which is a lie. Reality is not all that there is [lo que hay]. There are everywhere things that are [cosas que hay] and which do not exist, that is, that do not belong to reality. For example, it is what is alluded to by the word people [pueblo]; generally, it is taken for something Real, for example, the population of a State, or something else that is a collection of persons. But people [pueblo] do not exist. People [Pueblo] is in fact beneath all of this and nevertheless it is from there that denial can rise and thus an attack against Reality.
I as a person, as Agustín García Calvo, can do nothing against Reality. I am a Real person; therefore it is pointless to expect from me anything of another world. But I am in fact nobody, it is someone who is saying I; I depends on the very act of speaking and thus I does not exist, I do not exist. I exist as a real entity, but I no. It is the same as with people [pueblo]. It is therefore from this point from which one can think a denial, of an attack on Reality. I, someone who says I, that is, people [pueblo] who do not exist, but it is [hay], which continues to be [habiéndolo] beneath Reality. The tactic that follows from this is not lacking, it does not need to be stated, as it is given as such: it is simply denial, the discovery that what was believed was a lie, that the Faith that sustained one’s Reality had no basis. And this discovery, however it is made, is already itself an action. To think of another tactic is a diversion that can be very costly. What has to be done is deny the Faith, given that the Faith is that which sustains Reality.
Q: Is writing an instrument of emancipation or domination?
R: The difference of language, which belongs to no one, is that it is the only machine that is given freely to anyone, though in the form naturally of a specific language, in the grammar of a particular language, which always implies a certain falsification. But even then, language is given freely to anyone and furthermore, it is the only thing (I am not referring to natural things, like water and air and the like, but to machines, because grammar is a machine, an artifact), it is the only thing that is given freely to anyone, without distinction of class, sex, nothing. Except that writing was always, since the beginning of History (and History began in effect with writing; we cannot speak of History beyond the moment in which there is a mark in a rock, some kind of written testimony). Since the beginning, History has been a thing of Lords and their priests. You know that writing has been from its origin hieratic. It belonged to priests at the service of Power, of Masters and accordingly it costs and is worth Money. To climb the pyramid of Power and acquire position, writing, submission to writing, is the indispensible condition. This is accordingly the fundamental war of language and writing. In the face of this, someone may say that I myself, or anyone, has learned tricks or skill to say NO in an efficacious manner precisely through books, through writing. There is no inconvenience in confessing it. From the fragments that have fallen to us of the book of Heraclitus of Ephesus to the works of Machado or Unamuno, which I read as an adolescent, well, one has effectively engaged in a conversation with the few deceased who continue to live through writing, no? It is therefore useful to clarify this contradiction. This is not to deny that writing is a kind of death of the spoken word. Writing is the fixing and the submission to determined ends and definitively a submission to Money of something which in principle was free of this. There is no denial; it is as such. What happens, as with the other things of Reality, is that writing is also not perfectly made, perfectly closed; It has fissures, and it is therefore through them that sometimes emerges, though through writing, a living speech, be it poetry, or logic or whatever, and then without anything more, the contradiction is unmade. It is thus: writing continues to be this, it is fatal, but it fails, fails, and then its only virtue that for us is of any worth is that it can fail and allow, through the cracks, a living voice to escape, be it poetry or logic. This leads me, as regards poetry, on one hand, to endeavour to give back to it the living voice that is killed in writing, contrary to what is commonly poetry which is fully written and which is of no use beyond being read to oneself and with which nothing happens. And what I say of poetry applies equally to logic or reasoning. There are ways, tricks, to avoid the death of reasoning in a written philosophy, such that it becomes again the voice of common meaning, of common reason, which is what I call living language.
Q: Should we be against all Ideas, against all isms, including that of anarchy?
R: Yes, immediately. Against all ideas because following from what was said earlier, Reality is constituted of Ideas which are the same time beliefs. One should not distinguish between Ideas and Faith. Ideas and Faith are in fact the same. Any form of ideation, whether political, for example, or scientific, is grounded in a believing that knows what will happen, to … reduce what is happening, … to convert it into something known, something known beforehand. Any science or any politics that trusts the future, this is already an Idea, already Faith, and is therefore fatal to anything that maybe alive below. … If you speak of anarchism, then yes, it is the same: “is one to believe in the Future as do the Masters? Is there any difference? A so-called anarchist who continues to count on the future, must not the same procedures be followed as those of the executives of power to secure a better Future, and the like? We are before the same. There are no longer any differences. All are Ideas and therefore there is nothing more to do, no? The word anarchy suffers the same as the word infinity in Philosophy and in Mathematics at the service of Physics, that negation has died, has been incarcerated. The a, the an of anarchy or the in of infinity, no longer do anything in the language. The people [el pueblo], which does not exist, what is says truly is No, and is thereby capable of destroying the Ideas that are continually developed to defend Reality. The No must therefore be guarded against being subject to a future plan, Theirs, that of those who rule. This is elemental, the most elemental thing that can be said of politics.
Q: To construct or to destroy?
R: Well, the answer is already partially included in what I have just said. Construction is something of Theirs, of the defenders of Reality and of the sustainers of Power, and of therefore the priests, the philosophers, the literati and the scientists who are in principle at its service. They construct and they construct in this way, beginning, as is natural, from the Future. They know the end, they know where a political movement is heading, they know the same of a scientific investigation, and thus they rush, with the methods that they are given, to realize this Future. To realize this Future, that is, to realize what is known beforehand, is the same as to say to make what is already made. This is the trick of construction and the question addresses itself to this. Effectively, one constructs everywhere.
Nothing remains but to look at the useless public works, the production of automobiles, the sustenance of States, of whatever colour; all is construction, it is what Reality consists of. This construction signifies making what was already made, realizing the future. Such that anything in us that does not conform to this procedure, that finds or feels that there is here a falsification, a hoax, cannot admit this path of construction. Power means precisely the conversion into the Future, into probabilities, into accounts, which in the end are Money. Possibilities in truth are without an end, they have no number or purpose. Such possibilities are those that the people [el pueblo], which does not exist, or I, to the extent that I do not exist, call something good, some possibility of life that signifies, is called … love, liberty and the like. Accordingly, anything which reduces these possibilities without an end to a Future to be realized and which will be nothing more than a reproduction of the same, is something that one must be fundamentally opposed to, no? He who says NO, the des that is in the word destroy, if you wish. It is thought that construction is simply the affirmation or reaffirmation of a destruction of possibilities, destruction of life, destruction of reasoning, destruction of thought. But the destruction of this destruction is the only thing that can open paths to possibilities without ends.
Q: In the strike of 65, for which you lost your professorship, and in May of 68, the word of protest used by people was that of revolution. Today terms like alter-globalization or another world is possible are more frequent. With the invention of so much new vocabulary, what are we doing, strengthening the foundations of the System or cracking it open?
R: In relation to vocabulary, it must be said (of course you will not agree, but I will) that already in 65 the term “revolution” was used little by students. It was already a very old term. In fact, since the French Revolution to our own day it has done little but degenerate, and accordingly you can find it being used by the Mass Media. Everywhere and everyday you see that there are already revolutions: revolutions in music, revolutions in philosophical thought, in painting … in anything, there are revolutions every day, no? This is an excellent testimony of the degeneration of the term. It is one example among many of something which in principle is born alive and negative, as is evident with any rebellion against Power, in the end is assimilated, is converted into something manageable, something that is a part of History, and in this way assures us, by being in History, that nothing of another world is happening, that nothing of another world will happen; that something is desired with all of my heart, which anyway does not exist, namely, that something of another world should happen. And thus the trick of assimilation is obvious.
Yes, there are revolutions, there were revolutions, but it is already known that nothing of another world is going to happen, that all will belong to History, more or less contemporary, and nothing more. The perpetual assimilation of vocabulary must be expected, vocabulary which is not just vocabulary, but are Ideas, with notions of the thing. We must be on guard against Them. The only clean thing that can be used against Them, that is used, is that which has no meaning, it is to say NO, it is to say, what?, the question what?, which is the Socratic question, and those terms of everyday language that lack meaning. Any other terms, to the extent that they carry meaning, already begin to find a place within Reality, begin to cease to be of use to rebellion, and convert themselves into something positive and servile.
Q: The People and poetry, have they not been absorbed by Power?
R: Well, as with everything else, what I was saying of assimilation, anything, even that which comes from below, well they risk suffering this assimilation, the assimilation by Power. The only breath of joy is that this assimilation is never complete, never perfect, such that against the pretensions which from Above proclaim having arrived at assimilation, that “ Reality is Everything”, against this, its lies are discovered and that something which does not exist, something of the people, of poetry, continues living. …
Other texts from the CNT: Agustín García Calvo: El hombre que supo decir ¡no!, El anarquismo lingüístico y sin-fin de agustín, La voz de la rebelión