Reflections amidst the proliferation of rebellions …
Where, then, is the positive possibility of a German emancipation?
Answer: In the formulation of a class with radical chains, a class of civil society which is not a class of civil society, an estate which is the dissolution of all estates, a sphere which has a universal character by its universal suffering and claims no particular right because no particular wrong, but wrong generally, is perpetuated against it; which can invoke no historical, but only human, title; which does not stand in any one-sided antithesis to the consequences but in all-round antithesis to the premises of German statehood; a sphere, finally, which cannot emancipate itself without emancipating itself from all other spheres of society and thereby emancipating all other spheres of society, which, in a word, is the complete loss of man and hence can win itself only through the complete re-winning of man. This dissolution of society as a particular estate is the proletariat.
By heralding the dissolution of the hereto existing world order, the proletariat merely proclaims the secret of its own existence, for it is the factual dissolution of that world order.
Karl Marx, Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right
To me the flower of the proletariat is not, as it is to the Marxists, the upper layer, the aristocracy of labor, those who are the most cultured, who earn more and live more comfortably than all the other workers. Precisely this semi-bourgeois layer of workers would, if the Marxists had their way, constitute their fourth governing class. This could indeed happen if the great mass of the proletariat does not guard against it. By virtue of its relative. well-being and semi-bourgeois position, this upper layer of workers is unfortunately only too deeply saturated with all the political and social prejudices and all the narrow aspirations and pretensions of the bourgeoisie. Of all the proletariat, this upper layer is the least social and the most individualist.
By the flower of the proletariat, I mean above all that great mass, those millions of the uncultivated, the disinherited, the miserable, the illiterates, whom Messrs. Engels and Marx would subject to their paternal rule by a strong government – naturally for the people’s own salvation! All governments are supposedly established only to look after the welfare of the masses! By flower of the proletariat, I mean precisely that eternal “meat” (on which governments thrive), that great rabble of the people (underdogs, “dregs of society”) ordinarily designated by Marx and Engels in the picturesque and contemptuous phrase Lumpenproletariat. I have in mind the “riffraff,” that “rabble” almost unpolluted by bourgeois civilization, which carries in its inner being and in its aspirations, in all the necessities and miseries of its collective life, all the seeds of the socialism of the future, and which alone is powerful enough today to inaugurate and bring to triumph the Social Revolution.
Mikhail Bakunin, On the International Workingmen’s Association and Karl Marx
If we had once again to conceive of the fortunes of humanity in terms of class, then today we would have to say that there are no longer social classes, but just a single planetary petty bourgeoisie, in which all the old social classes are dissolved: The petty bourgeoisie has inherited the world and is the form in which humanity has survived nihilism.
… the planetary petty bourgeoisie is probably the form in which humanity is moving toward its own destruction. But this also means that the petty bourgeoisie represents an opportunity unheard of in the history of humanity that it must at all costs not let slip away. Because if instead of continuing to search for a proper identity in the already improper and senseless form of individuality, humans were to succeed in belonging to this impropriety as such, in making of the proper being-thus not an identity and an individual property but a singularity without identity, a common and absolutely exposed singularity – if humans could, that is, not be – thus in this or that particular biography, but be only the thus, their singular exteriority and their face, then they would for the first time enter into a community without presuppositions and without subjects, into a communication without the incommunicable.
Selecting in the new planetary humanity those characteristics that allow for its survival, removing the thin diaphragm that separates bad mediatized advertising from the perfect exteriority that communicates only itself – this is the political task of our generation.
Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community
A spectre is haunting Capital – the spectre of the anonymous many; not of the poor, of the workers, or of the natives, or any other sociological or ethnological category. All the powers of the old world have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: commodities and spectacles, governments and militarised police, reformists and conservatives, sclerotic marxists and revanchist neo-fascists, GAFA and apparatuses of social control.
But where there was formerly a party of the opposition that could be decried as a threat by its opponents in power, today there is none; and all pretenders to the role will be ignored or swept away by a pleb or proletariat which refuses identification and representation.
If in the past, one could sing out that the people united will never be defeated, we now know that it is when the many are made a people that the illusions and alienation of representational politics takes root.
Today, the faceless multitude can only serve as precarious, indentured labour, or die. Production and consumption have become secondary moments in the circulation of capital; the fetish of money reigns supreme, and before this god, the lie that work brings material possession and comfort is unmasked.
Capitalism’s “social contract” (work and you shall consume) is fissuring along multiple and unpredicatble lines: there is not and cannot be work for everyone; most work will be increasingly forced labour, for only ever cheaper work secures growing profit; commodities will become ever more expensive, their consumption an ever growing privilege of the few; consumption will live on only under conditions of debt bondage and fantasy, but neither fills the stomach. Little more remains then the seduction of pacifying-controlling “entertainment”, underpaid labour, isolation and the police, under the shadow of unrestrained energy extraction and ecological self-destruction.
The many “have nothing of their own to secure and to fortify; their mission …[can only be] … to destroy all previous securities for, and insurances of” their oppression. “The … the lowest stratum of our present society, cannot stir, cannot raise itself up, without the whole superincumbent strata of official society being sprung into the air.”
As capitalism metamorphosises into “high-tech” feudalism, the age of riots is heralded. The future, if such a thing can still be spoken of with any sense, lies in the ungovernability of the many; in our ability to create and care for ourselves in freedom and equality.
Quidams of all the metropolises, unite!
Quidams, just one more push …
We receive and transmit this written communique jointly from Santiago and Paris. (lundi matin #213 21/10/2019)
Clinamen. Even the smallest incident, which one would like to assign to chance, can not happen without putting into question a whole situation. Beautiful as the chance encounter, on a world map, with the police and the crowd, the riots of Santiago crystallised in a few hours all the stakes and dispositions of the epoch. On the ground: the ever-increasing importance of circulation, which makes each new price increase a matter of survival. On the side of power: the sordid security infrastructures that constitute the inevitable backdrop of cybernetic capitalism. And when new rogue laws are not yet promulgated, there is always the possibility of resorting to old reflexes. The state of emergency and an army that has not changed since Pinochet. On our side, finally: the impervious temporality of the strategic inclinations, the irrepressible impulse of a desire of lasting and deep insurrection, the conscious efforts of some brains, some bodies to accompany the movement on which our future depends. Lastly, the courage of a few thousand high school students, who alone knew how to call an entire capital city to the uprising.
Savagery. “No predator has ever known what to do with our savagery, since it attaches itself to no chain, does not reduce itself to any cage, because it always escapes, always traces its path, is called, shows up and disappears, strikes, insists like pain, because it is pain. And pain is our story.
This story, which is painful today, ignites, cries out, leaps over the gates, sacks the enemy city, the imprisoned city, the city with old and so respectable colonial names. The city of the fearful, the city of those who played Pharaohs. But no. We will not submit. Nobody, neither in Santiago, nor in Chile, nor anywhere, accepts to pay with his life the madness of their riches.”(1)
We. We would never have thought of living in a world where we could seriously consider writing a solemn phrase, one of those good old phrases that we thought had been definitively locked away in the curiosity store of history, one of those calls worthy of Marx to the “workers of all countries, unite!” And yet, riot after riot, city after city, country after country, week after week, it is the conviction of living a common uprising that inhabits us. The crisis of the governmentality is general: quidams of all the metropolises, unite.
Collapse. When those who have not retreated before 3000 dead and missing, who without hesitation tortured 40,000, mobilise again the army after the simple beginning of riot, that the same week we learn that China prohibits the sale of black clothes on In its territory, we say to ourselves that the Empire trembles, and whatever we say, all things considered, the collapse of capitalism is perhaps closer than the end of the world, to which they hold so dear.
Time. Since 1968 and the crushing of its legacy under the neo-liberal riposte, never has the game seemed so open. The yellow vests, Hong Kong, Ecuador, Haiti, Egypt, Guinea, Lebanon, Catalonia, Honduras, now Chile mark the opening of a new sequence. As reformist as the demands are, we are at a crossroads. An as yet still anonymous class, confusedly aware, begins to understand that our destinies are linked. The current ecological catastrophe is the theatre of a decision between the night of surveillance and the glow of the return of the world.
Quidams, again an effort to be completely revolutionary. We call for uncivil disobedience in cities around the world.
Santiago-Paris, October 19, 2019