Weaving protest into revolution

It is only when grounded in the ubiquity of resistance that revolution becomes a possibility.

John Holloway, Change the World Without Taking Power

As the tides of protest swell and subside, in these our interesting times of rebellion, their limits are exposed.  Protest is judged largely within a logic of measurable consequences, of effectiveness.  It measures its strength against the power of states and corporations, with success being finally evaluated against the concessions forced from power.  Battle lines are identified, opposing forces are mobilised and arrayed, and the stronger will then triumph.

It is an invigorating picture of political conflict and revolution.  Yet it is a false picture; false even on those occasions where the drama of politics seems to reduce all to a final conflagration.

The lines of tension, opposition, that mark capitalist society are not one, but many.  Relations of power and domination are diffused throughout the social body, such that little or no activity fails to contribute to its reproduction.  The opposition to capitalism must therefore be equally diffused, mobile, unstable.  As no life today lies outside Capital, what is required is a separation, from within; a shift, a series of shifts, within the oppressive society itself, that resonate, become contagious, seductive and give life to the creation of autonomous spaces and times, relations, out of synchrony with those of capitalism.  If these relations then grow or multiply, capitalism then can be partially ignored or pushed about, forced to respond on terms not of its own choosing, even retreat.

Protests against power can quickly become protests for power.  And then the struggle is lost.  But then it was lost from the very beginning, if the conquest of power was the aim.

Tapestries, archipelagos, webs of autonomies create new subjectivities, communities of disobedience and rebellion; communities which may also have a need to protest, but then the protest will not be mere spectacle, but rather the affirmation of a way of life.

The multiplicity of protest movements over the last two years, as with all protests, always leaves something behind: memories, imagined possibilities, solidarities.  Over time however, even these may weaken.  And the protest dies as protest.  Or the protest can animate new forms of social reality, which then acquire a life independent of the protests and which may sustain future struggles.

This, for the moment, is the richest political heritage of spain’s 15M: squatting, okupied social centres (a particularly significant site of conflict in recent social struggles in spain and throughout europe), housing occupations (e.g. the Corralas movement in Seville and Andalucía is a particularly powerful example), networks of mutual aid (communal kitchens, food banks: e.g. Red Alimentandos.Banco de Alimentos., services: Oficina de Apoyo Mutuo de Manoteras – OFIAM), sharing networks (e.g. Acabaconlacrisis ), time banks, barter and social currencies, neighbourhood solidarity commerce, libraries (the Carabanchel neighbourhood assembly of Madrid is, for example, involved in all of these kinds of efforts), cooperatives, neighbourhood assemblies that exemplify through forms of direct democracy alternative ways of organising political life (it is these local assemblies that are more often than not at the origin of the other initiatives cited: see the Madrid based, Toma los barrios), popular universities (e.g. unipopular sierra norte ), urban gardens (e.g. Red de huertos urbanos Madrid), land occupations … and so on, and so on.

Each example, experience, taken alone is a form of protest.  But more importantly, each is the creation of something that pushes at the limits of State-Capital.  And taken together, they trace the beginning of a different form of life. 

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