The city belongs to those who occupy it: Okupying Lisbon

Reflections after an assembly of a new okupation in Lisbon …

Any new occupation is invariably accompanied by uncertainty, an uncertainty only intensified by a lack of clarity over means and goals, organisation and methods of functioning, and the physical and human needs for the sustainability of the space taken, over time.  The task of setting these out, even minimally, is difficult, but fundamental.

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Without fear: Land occupations in spain

On the 30th of June, the state owned land estate of Somonte, occupied in 2012 by landless, agricultural day labourers of the Sindicato Andaluz de Trabajadores/as (SAT), were evicted by a large police (Guardia Civil) intervention, for a fifth time.  The eight persons present were charged with usurpation of “public” property. (SAT 30/06/2017))

Twenty-four hours later, the finca was retaken; lands that were once common lands, then appropriated by the State, have now been re-appropriated by those who work it.  Those accused have had the charges against them dropped.  (SAT 10/07/2017) The struggle for land in Andalucía, an exemplary struggle, continues …

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Anti-capitalism as the creation of desire: From Eukariot

What is important right now is to twirl in a cheerful danse macabre on the grave of bourgeois enjoyment.

Eukariot

A speculative, provocative and experimental intervention, from Eukariot (Issue 1)

Firm Statements (Soon To Be Proven Wrong)

I.

– There are, perhaps, two initial challenges that an anti-bourgeois experiment faces: first, the participants need to learn how to enjoy failing in the bourgeois Olympics and to stop running after the tin medals that, once pinned into our flesh by various authorities, promise us their eternal respect and love. This failure involves learning how to enjoy the discomfort of being a disappointment to mom and dad, teachers, sergeants and bosses, to God, the superego, the prime minister, to “people” and the laws of Nature. The bourgeois world makes a lot of seductive offers – protection, recognition, tenderness, copulation, uniqueness, the status of rebel, a pat on the back, a diploma to hang around our necks or therapy. But bourgeois comfort comes at a price too high to pay; we need to cut its throat.

– Second, and potentially harder, is acknowledging that our great political aims, our fantasies of truth, fullness, peace and harmony, of the revolution that will purify and perfect us, of the harmonious collective, will fail. These fantasies are as impossible to fulfill as they are to abandon. As modern Western subjects we have limited resources, abilities and potentialities. We are a checker board of anxiety nodes; our lifelines are attached to a complex of governing apparatuses that we are unprepared and reluctant to disturb. Consequently, we accept that we might need a political fantasy that verges on the metaphysical in order to engage in risky activities. This fantasy functions as a shining light that might be a lure, but still gives us some direction. Or as an amulet, offering us the illusion of protection while we de-occupy spaces, build collectives and stick pieces of scrap iron in the mechanisms that provide us with being, comfort and enjoyment.

– Currently most of our political inventions follow rules laid down by a few European men and women from past centuries; the only thing that these tired rules can stimulate is the compulsive pleasure of the political ritual. Following these rituals makes easy our attentive policing by a bourgeois order that has long ago learned how to re-signify our games, how to make them irrelevant or impracticable. We might still be ahead of our adversary at the level of structural analysis (are we?), but the bourgeois order, despite its rudimentary logic, prevails at the level of tactical and strategic struggle.

– Alarmingly, it seems that today the survival of many of our groups and practices depends on the enemy’s ability – what we generically call the State, capitalism, bourgeois order, colonialism, patriarchy, heterosexism, fascism and so on – to keep up its brutal practices. By this I mean that most of our resistances come from a reactionary position, reacting to the events created by liberal-capitalism. We engage in struggles that have already been lost several times in the past so that we can shout truths from the cross to an absent public. And we ignore that stubbornly repeating these customary practices makes us points of support and vessels of power, a part of the system of pipes through which bourgeois enjoyment circulates.

– We have stopped experimenting with assembling and disassembling different life-forms and economies of enjoyment, away from the lurid semantics of bourgeois pleasure. We do not work towards inventing and building our own fantasies and worlds. We sit tight in the lairs that we’ve dug for ourselves within the bourgeois world, scavenging leftovers from the libidinal forage they feed their flock with: a concentrated spec(tac)ular mix of submission to authority, (self) humiliation, terror, war, revenge, jealousy, camps, murder, torture and death, packaged in the multi-coloured tin foil of “entertainment”, “education”, “success” or “progress”. At the light of organic wax candles we obsessively scan the news, gorging on the latest disaster, commenting, critiquing, shouting outrage, calling for justice, organising protests or aid missions. It is this placidity that we nowadays call “activism”. I have come to the strange conclusion that I am really bored with critique. Wow, what a devastating point for a “radical”, isn’t it, since what we enjoy most is critiquing, assiduously looking for the next disaster so that we can indulge in this sado-narcissistic pleasure? But critiquing is now irrelevant: we have all the critiques we need. Critique keeps us attached to the world of the enemy, glued to the window of fantasy through which we watch its exploits, seduced by the governing dispositifs we so carefully survey from behind our twitchy curtains; it keeps us in a libidinal relationship with the bourgeois world, often one where our spite hides desire and admiration. We need to start something else, start demolishing, start building, in all registers of reality. A much more daunting and serious matter, one that will get our hands dirty with the contradictions and compromises of each other’s enjoyment; one that can aspire to no purity or resolution, no bird’s eye view; and all this without guaranteeing the enjoyment that critique provides.

-The pleasure that we take in these reactionary politics signals our dependence on the recognition of bourgeois authorities: we still place ourselves on a stage for the gaze of the Father, we still enjoy transgressing his prohibitions so as to get a reaction from him, so that he notices us. How many of us would lose their reason to be if these prohibitions were lifted? But the point is not simply to transgress or to critique; the point is not simply to lift the prohibition. The point is to stop enjoying that which the prohibition prohibits, since the purpose of prohibition is just that: to stimulate our desire for the bourgeois law, even if it is the desire to break it. As long as we critique the bourgeois world rather than inventing our own we are still in love with it.

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Notes on the Bure ZAD and the politics of eternity/death

Un grand sommeil noir
Tombe sur ma vie :
Dormez, tout espoir,
Dormez, toute envie !

Je ne vois plus rien,
Je perds la mémoire
Du mal et du bien…
O la triste histoire !

Je suis un berceau
Qu’une main balance
Au creux d’un caveau :
Silence, silence !

Paul Verlaine

The ZADs of france (Zone à défendre), at Notre-dame-des-landes, Testet, Roybon and the many others elsewhere (click here for ZAD map: le monde 21/12/2015) have emerged originally as moments of contestation against major infrastructure developments, public and private, typically outside of large urbanised spaces.  The protests have then, in some cases, been followed by occupations of the contested territories with the aim of literally physically impeding the development projects.  It is then bodies against machines, the war machine of the State, with all of its apparatuses of control and repression, and the physical machines that re-make space and life, to serve the movement of capital-commodities.

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The many ZAD of Bure, france: Autonomy before nuclear power

A convivial society should be designed to allow all its members the most autonomous action by means of tools least controlled by others. People feel joy, as opposed to mere pleasure, to the extent that their activities are creative; while the growth of tools beyond a certain point increases regimentation, dependence, exploitation, and impotence.

Ivan Illich, Tools for Conviviality

The distinction between city and countryside under contemporary capitalism fades under flows of commodities that know no borders except those of obstacles to be overcome.

Born from the concentration of resources in urban centres, under capitalist commodification and spectacle, the rural is but a corrupted term for primitive accumulation and colonisation; the space through which the conditions for the reproduction of capitalist social relations are secured.

For this, the spaces beyond the city must be invested, invaded, captured and used; transformed in this way into extensions of “urban” social life.

The spread of urban infrastructure into rural spaces (i.e., not yet commodified spaces) is thus fundamental to the expansion of a social system that rests upon permanent growth.

The ZADs (“Zone à défendre”) of france are a politics of resistance-creation that oppose to the world of capital spaces of collective autonomy that both refuse capitalism and prefigure different ways of life beyond it.

The struggle against a nuclear waste storage site in the commune of Bure, in the department of Meuse in north-eastern france, is only the latest example of such resistance-creation.  And if we can speak of “neighbourhood anarchism“, the ZAD’s then perhaps exemplify the extension of the “neighbourhood” beyond any human-urban population to living nature.

From  Alternative Libertaire, the translation of an article on the Bure ZAD …

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A Paris Autumn

The 12th of September marks the beginning of protests against the new (yet again!) french government’s proposed labour law reforms.  Exit the socialists François Hollande and Manuel Valls, enter the golden boy, “I belong to no political party!”, politician as pure spectacle, Emmanuel Macron and the “I join whatever political party brings me to power!”, Edouard Philippe, and the political script … remains unchanged: weaken collective bargaining and collective labour contracts, weaken labour unions, weaken protection against firings, expand temporary contracts, in sum, intensify and expand labour exploitation in the name of competition and national well-being. (the guardian 31/08/2017)

With no illusions regarding the radicalness or militancy of labour unions (even the french “communist” CGT), the call for a day of strikes and protests led to over four thousand work stoppages and brought forth some four hundred thousand people into the streets across the country. (le monde 13/09/2017)

To strike and protest for a day is little, against the oppressive political and economic order of our time.  But in every protest there is the unpredictable, the unmanageable … the eruption of the ungovernable that for however brief a time allows one to breath freely and opens a door on another imaginary.  Those who Macron had earlier called the lazy, the cynical, belonging to the extremes, that is, all of those who refuse the sovereign’s light, on this day, reveled amid dark autumn leaves.  The response of the State: the only one that increasingly it seems to know: physical violence.

Paris, September 12 (from Taranis news) …

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The Chicago Conspiracy: A film memory of chile’s 9/11 and beyond

From subversive action films

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Ruymán Rodríguez: Neighbourhood anarchism. A surmounting thesis

If you struggle you can lose
If you don’t struggle you are lost

On a wall in Cordoba

Ruymán Rodríguez‘s “neighbourhood anarchism” is the child of his militant experience in the Federación de Anarquistas Gran Canaria (FAGC).  It is an effort to think through the implications of this militancy for the understanding of anarchism, pushing the latter beyond more traditional, and exhausted, ideological and theoretical oppositions, and this without any intellectual or moral arrogance.

The ambition is simple, but far reaching: to invent and clarify a broader and more militant notion of what it is to be an anarchist.

If the concept of a “neighbourhood” is itself vague, Rodríguez’s “neighbourhood” has both historical and social depth (it refers to relatively small human spaces of shared ways of life, bound by common experiences and forms of activity), while remaining sufficiently malleable to capture ways of life that are not exclusively expressive of urban life, or of any particular activity (for example, factory labour).  It points then to spaces of commonality, of what has been and what might be.  What a neighbourhood can be is that space from which autonomous ways of being gain form.

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The russian revolution of 1917: Victor Serge

Bolshevik thought takes it for granted that truth is its peculiar possession. To Lenin, to Bukharin, to Trotsky, to Preobrajensky, to many another thinker I could mention, the materialist dialectic of Marx and Engels was at one and the same time the law of human thought and the law of the natural development of societies. The party, quite simply, is the custodian of truth; any idea at variance with party doctrine is either pernicious error or backsliding. Here, then, is the source of the party’s intolerance. Because of its unshakable conviction of its exalted mission, it develops astonishing reserves of moral energy—and a theological turn of mind which easily becomes inquisitorial. Lenin’s ‘proletarian Jacobinism’, with its disinterestedness, its discipline in both thought and action, was grafted upon the psychology of cadres whose character had been formed under the old regime—that is to say, in the course of the struggle against despotism. It seems to be unquestionable that Lenin chose as his co-workers men whose temperament was authoritarian. The final triumph of the revolution eased the inferiority-complex of the masses—the always bullied and always downtrodden masses. At the same time, however, it awakened in them a desire for retaliation; and this desire tended to make the new institutions despotic also. I have seen with my own eyes how a man who only yesterday was a worker or sailor gets drunk on the exercise of power—how he delights in reminding others that from now on he’s giving the orders.

Victor Serge

Anarchist, Bolshevik, Trotskyist, Social-democrat: the ideological markers of Victor Serge’s political militancy can serve as a point of criticism, but also as testimony to the vagaries and uncertainties of all revolutionary engagement.

The criticisms of Serge’s political engagements are well known (see, for example, Luiggi Fabri‘s Revolution and Dictatorship, and Daniel Guerin‘s Anarchism), and we will not repeat them here.  What we share below, as part of our series of testimonials of the russian revolution of 1917, are his reflections on the Kronstadt rebellion of 1921 against Bolshevik rule (from his Memoirs of a Revolutionary), the suppression of which effectively marked the end of the revolution.

“We were advancing towards a classless society, a society of free men; but the party never missed an opportunity to remind people that “the reign of the workers will never end”. Over whom were the workers to reign then? And that word ‘reign’—what does it mean anyhow? Totalitarianism—and within ourselves!”

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Anarchism, geography and the politics of space IV: Simon Springer’s postfraternal embrace of David Harvey

For anarchists, as the insurrectionary ethos moves through a community, it mobilizes political power by circulating ideas and making room for voluntary association. Such a view of power isn’t actually individualist, but rather it’s necessarily a relational assemblage, where the individual and the community are continually negotiated categories. And what of Marxists in a revolutionary conjuncture of totalizing change? The vanguard simply decides what’s best, and those who don’t want to be liberated or assigned roles are dragged along kicking and screaming?

Simon Springer

Continuing with the Simon Springer-David Harvey debate around the nature of radical geography, we share below Springer’s response to Harvey’s essay, “Listen Anarchist!”  The original essay can be found online, at the Research Gate website and in pdf.

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