Since October 17, Lebanon has experienced countrywide demonstrations that have toppled the prime minister and transformed Lebanese society. These demonstrations are part of a global wave of uprisings including Ecuador, Chile, Honduras, Haiti, Sudan, Iraq, Hong Kong, and Catalunya, in which the exploited and oppressed are challenging the legitimacy of their rulers. In Lebanon, a sectarian power-sharing arrangement dating from the end of the civil war has created a permanent ruling class of warlords who use patronage networks to maintain power by winning elections—confirming our thesis that politics is war by other means. In this thorough account of the events of the past month, an on-the-ground participant describes the Lebanese uprising in detail, exploring how it has undermined patriarchal structures and transcended religious divisions to bring people together against the ruling class.
November 12: In the early morning, the refugee/migrant squat of Bouboulinas in Exarchia is besieged and evacuated, after the anti-terrorist OPKE had sealed off the north-east corner of the neighbourhood.
November 11: Anti-riot police encircle some 200 hundred students in the economics faculty of the University of Athens. Among the students, many are wounded after being violently hit by the police. The previous evening, police searches had found material for the making of molotov cocktails used in the resistance against the country’s new authoritarian regime. Dozens are arrested.
Monday, November 11, early morning. After a long, partly forced silence, here is our latest news from Greece, from Crete to Epirus (near Albania), to Athens, with an unprecedented wave of searches and arrests, false accusations against Rouvikonas , the end of the Golden Dawn trial and Exarchia becoming a powder keg.
Greece: A leaden repression falls upon the social movement!
At all times and in all places, whenever power has hardened, it has always extravagantly named those who resisted it. Under the Nazi occupation or the junta of the Colonels, opponents were sometimes referred to as “terrorists”. Today, this word and others from the same barrel are thrown about all of the time against the rebels of an unjust and deadly society.
From the outside it may seem unimportant, but being there, and not giving up your own discourse, is vital. And I have been able to verify it personally. From the smallest to the largest, at any time you can delve into a conflict, radicalise a situation, show efficacy or experience. Your behavior speaks more about your political and social proposal than any discourse. When a group of protesters sit down and begin to sing the “som gent de pau” again, it is important that a discordant presence remind them that sitting invites the police to charge them and it leaves an area of the body as sensitive as the head exposed. When the chauvinistic and machista chants break through, it is necessary to break this dynamic and introduce anti-capitalist or libertarian slogans that serve as a counterweight. When a group of young people run shirtless and face-to-face fleeing from the sirens, it is difficult for them not to forget the anarchist militant who gave them an on-site tutorial on how to completely cover their face and head with the shirts that hung from their waists. When the spirits are inflamed after singing Els segadors, it is worth remembering to those around you that the lyrics of that hymn were composed by an old anarchist named Emili Guayavents (1899) and that is where the “com fem caure espigues d’or/quam convé seguem cadenes” comes from, … When a fascist ambushes to burst a demonstration, it can mean a change of perspective among those present that an anarchist is the first to detect the play and expel the “agent provocateur.” All this, although it hardly means anything more than a tiny drop in the current, is important to feed the channel and push it out of the calm waters.
I repeat: we are not facing a revolution, nor are we facing a perfect struggle. None is, none will be. The doomsayers who in each revolt or social mobilisation denounce that “it will not last”, that “it will fail” or that “it is not an integral revolution”, they are always and will always be right. They are now with regardto the riots in Catalonia, they were recently in relation to 15-M, they were a long time ago when they talked about May 68, but they also would have if they had been alive on July 19, 1936 and had been able to walk the streets of Barcelona. All revolutions and revolutions of revolutions that have occurred, throughout the history of humankind, have either failed or have been betrayed, and many of them have been partial enough for the term revolution to remain, perhaps, too gradiose. The doomsayers are not right because they are “clairvoyant geniuses”, they are right because their analytical horizon has, in reality, the same complexity as that of reminding us that we are all going to die. The question is whether, knowing the obvious, the high percentage of failure, demobilisation and repression that awaits us, it is worth moving, to intensify the situation, to gain influence, experience and number for the future, to take events to their limits, to struggle without idealizations or vague hopes or, on the contrary, to remain arms crossed, criticising from the distance, and waiting for death to arrive. As Simone Weil said: “I don’t like war, but in war I always thought that the most horrible thing was the situation of those who remained in the rear”.
When I returned from Barcelona, a comrade from the Tenants’ Union [Sindicato de Inquilinas de Gran Canaria] asked me: “In the end, those in the streets, who are they? Are they independentists or are they anti-system? And I had to answer what I saw: they are people, simply people, a people who are beginning to lose their fear. That is the truth.
We share below a short essay by Diego Conno, published with lobo suelto (27/10/2019), even though we might disagree with some of the text’s terminology (e.g., “popular”, “the people”, “moblisation”) – though even here, the words intimate new possible meanings – and we would dispute the need for “leadership” in riots and uprisings. And we do so, because it reflects a light on our times which may very well be our immediate future, that is, multiplying insurrections which are internally plural (they possess no centre, make no fixed demands, and are leaderless) and thus defying any single ideological and/or organisational form. And it is into this reality that any radical politics must plunge into.
But then perhaps this was always the case, and if we have lost sight of it, it is because we – I include anarchists here – have been blinded by the bolshevik myth. What unity (and what precisely this concept implies or should imply must be debated) insurrections come to possess is forged in the insurrection itself. A possible radical political movement cannot be judged from its inception (on the grounds of its purported goals); it must be made, and was made, in movement.
None of the riots, rebellions or insurrections of our time are nominally anarchist; they may in fact have very little to do with ideologically defined anarchism and/or anarchist movements (as was, is and will be in most cases). If this is then cited to justify passivity or indifference to the movement-event, anarchists condemn themselves to political irrelevance. This is not to argue that “we” must throw ourselves into every riot that comes along. Yet it is rarely possible to know beforehand how things will turn. And if what we face is violent death – and this is our fate within capitalism – then how can we not rebel?
There has never been a planned revolution; revolutions occur in the heat and passion of events. Thuswhat we can strive for is permanent revolution.
Oh, it’s all so long ago, isn’t it? When the wall came down I was 12 years old and crazy about belongings and about the world. I was embarrassed about coming from the GDR. I was embarrassed about going into shops in West Germany and being a grey and dark-blue complex of drab timidity amidst all the colours. With my first western money I bought myself a neon-coloured rucksack and a cassette recorder. I was already more colourful when I travelled with my mother in a packed train to Oberhausen in West Germany to see the acquaintances who had for years been sending us parcels for feast days and birthdays. I ate yoghurt for the first time, and liked it, and I draped myself in colours. Autumn colours were chic at the time: purple, ochre, etc.
Maybe I’d just lost interest in politics. If only I knew. At any rate Ernst Thälmann (the leader of the Communist Party who was later shot in Buchenwald) had recently been my hero, I’d wanted to be like him, and I’d thought about how he had managed to fashion a little inkwell with the bread that a prison warder had given him, fill it with milk and thus have a source of invisible ink that he could eat straight away if he had to. I wondered about that, and a moment later I wondered what it would be like to live with Martin Lee Gore (of synth-pop band Depeche Mode). I papered my room with posters of him, I dreamt about him, I was, even though I wasn’t quite a grown-up, Martin Lee Gore’s wife.
You probably didn’t know that before, but now you do. What I didn’t know for a long time: I was a torment to my parents, because capitalism now gripped me as firmly by the hand as the Pioneer Organisation had done before. As soon as it was there I was its willing talking doll, its passionate advocate, and I was right at the front of the queue of people buying and coveting consumer goods. I appropriated externals as if nothing else existed, and spent all my time observing who had what, and who had more, and established without much difficulty that we had less. To be precise, that was how things had seemed to me even before the wall came down, but now the differences were getting bigger. I couldn’t see what was being lost. I’ve only come to see it recently. I could see only what I didn’t have, and I was busy making demands and seeing those demands become reality. I never made any political demands, so for example I never complained in a public place about the new and much more visible distribution of money and opportunities; instead all my demands were made on my parents.
So I think I spent the years of growth after the fall of the GDR shopping. I barely knew how to do anything else but seek out those swiftly erected tent constructions full of cardboard boxes that contained all kinds of wonderful and desirable-looking cheap clothes, and later the new branches of large chains, afternoon after afternoon, and looking, wanting, buying. In retrospect I hold my hand up in front of my nose, because it smells of smoke. I remember that the nearby block where the Vietnamese guest-workers lived was said to be on fire. It’s clear in my memory that the fire had been started deliberately. I see people running, I see the excitement, I sense it, but perhaps it wasn’t even on fire, I’m not sure. But I remember very clearly that something was on fire somewhere for a while.
The opening of the Berlin wall on December 9th, 1989 – the east german authorities declared visits to west germany permissible, after weeks of social unrest – marked the symbolic and effective end of the “socialist block” of eastern europe and finally of the soviet union.
In the continuity of our article last week about the Catalan uprising, friends have transmitted these beautiful meditations from the streets of Barcelona.
“We do not wish honors, only to appear in the posterity of the history of cataclysms.”
Le Grand Jeu
Spain is a ruin. The wind travels through the void left by the Great of Spain. We have been ransacked by tradition, by every generation of rulers, by every generation of merchants and scammers. Only broken, can the Spanish try a re-composition at the height of its art and its festivals. Hong Kong, Chile, Ecuador, Haiti, Lebanon and France’s yellow vests show that the governing order itself is itself a ruin. A fierce ruin, which protects its soap bubbles as if they were diamonds.
The Spanish State will never grant independence to Catalonia. And if there is no negotiation, if there is no negotiated separation, history teaches us that the only possible option is war. For obvious economic reasons, but above all because it would mean its own political suicide, the Spanish State can never agree on a genuine independence referendum. The idea of Spain, and its materialisation in the Spanish State, corresponds to a concept of unity that fully subsumes the differences, all differences; as much those that inhabit the periphery, as well as those that inhabit the center. During the Franco regime, at school, it was explained to us that Spain was “a destined unity under the universal.”
The militant demonstrations around national independence in catalonia continue (The Guardian 27/10/2019) in the face of State repression; a growing militancy that “threatens to transform the demands and consciousness of the movement itself.”(CrimethInc. 23/10/2019)
However justified we are in believing this last – and anyone one would be, given the fundamental unpredictability of any protest and/or insurrection -, this must not be taken as a mere apriori. And there are circumstances surrounding the catalan movement which invite reflection.
If anarchism does not exist without active militancy, it is also the case that not every demonstration and uprising is to be embraced by anarchists.
We share below a reflection, in translation, on the events in catalonia by Tomás Ibáñez; a text which he has kindly passed on to Autonomies.
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.