The desire of rebellion: Okupation

Insurrection is the self-constitution of a temporality splitting and proliferating.

Franco Berardi “Bifo”

We need to be disciplined to be undisciplined.

Saul Newman

This post is inspired by the ongoing struggle of so many to create and defend Autonomous Okupied Social Centres.  On the 18th of January, 3000 people demonstrated in the streets of Madrid, in defense of the 16 year old CSOA La Casika, threatened by eviction.  A testimony to rebellion … "Diez, cien, mil centros sociales".

Capitalism, as a complex of social relations, constitutes the subjectivities of those who give life to it.  If “classical”, Fordist capitalism demanded a disciplined, domesticated population of labourers, contemporary post-Fordist, consumer capitalism has unleashed desire, an unrestrained desire for commodities fed by credit.  The indebted subject has replaced the worker of controlled and delayed pleasure.  What anti-capitalist politics remains possible must be elaborated within this setting.  However illusory the desires of “indebted” man are, (and however the control of labour is elaborated and intensified in the service of debt), those desires cannot be easily confined anew, especially in the name of some puritanical morality of sacrifice, whether capitalist or anti-capitalist.  Desire creates realities, as Deleuze and Guattari have taught us.  To repress it, in an act of return to earlier forms of capitalism, or earlier expressions of revolutionary discipline, would involve massive social change, either of a cataclysmic or authoritarian nature.  It is then from within contemporary desire that anti-capitalist politics must be imagined, lived.

The illusion of credit is that of permanent and ever renewed satisfaction; illusion because credit brings with it the enslavement and violence of debt, and its accompanying morality of guilt.  It gives and it takes away, with far greater aggression than any isolated factory discipline.  The worker of “classical” capitalism could always give expression to collective forms of disciplined resistance; something that is less than obvious today.  Debt isolates, fragments, renders all social ties precarious.  What rebellion is then possible?  In what spaces-times is the desire of insurrection to find sustenance?

Capitalism today is a social “system” that glories in its excesses.  Amid such excess, perhaps no greater resistance can be found than in squandering, in insolvency, in joyful carnivalesque expenditure.  Such gestures involve a refusal or retreat from Capital, as well as the possible creation of other ways of being, of being together.  An expression of such gestures is to be found in occupations, a common feature of our “time of riots” (Badiou).  Whether it be the occupation of city squares and streets, of places of work, land (in cities or “outside”), of houses for habitation, all are a re-appropriation of excess, an excess that can be claimed as our commons. 

In the politics of okupations, self-managed social centres have emerged as pivotal points of passage in the assertion, in the giving form to, new desires.  Rooted in relations of affective-corporal affinity, they are, inaddition to their enormous significance for political organization, spaces for the constitution of new ethical subjects.  To claim for them an intrinsic radicalism is of course absurd.  They can be however part of a “molecular recombination”, indigestible segments of anti-capitalist realities, generating and contributing to tendencies of social becoming that fissures the illusions of the commodity spectacle.

These segments … do not look for a fight, for confrontation, they just plunder when they need to plunder, escape when they need to escape, hide when they need to hide, disguising themselves and surviving in the margins, while at certain moments occupying the central stage of the social imagination. (Franco Berardi “Bifo”, “The Transversal Function of Disentaglement”, What We are Fighting For: A radical Collective Manifesto, 145)

Examples of such realities can be found in the recent metamorphoses of the Gezi-Park-Taksim Square occupation, as well as in the network of autonomous okupied social centres in Madrid … these are the many islands of an emerging and expanding archipelago of autonomy.

Video of Istanbul’s new post-Gezi okupied social centre, the Don Quixote, and a documentary by Christopher Patz on Madrid’s okupied social centres …

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