Raoul Vaneigem: A radical politics of life

From Ballast, an excerpt from Raoul Vaneigem’s most recent essay, which we present below in translation.

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Profaning the spectacle: Advertising subversives and vandals

If it is said today that power is everywhere, it is not to empty the concept of all meaning, but to point to the fact that capitalism shapes and permeates all social relations, that the latter are increasingly commodified and measurable exclusively by money, and that these together not only structure all social bonds, but are equally constitutive of human subjectivity. Capitalism is thus in this sense both extensive and intensive, leaving very little of nature beyond its reach.

For the great many of us on the “inside” of the Empire, grounding oneself, or grounding an anti-capitalist political movement, in a truth “outside”, is difficult, if not impossible. Every gesture of rebellion, when not compromised or crushed, risks appropriation and commercialisation. Every dissonant thought or action can be rendered a spectacle for passive consumption. Everyday reality is sacralised by the Midas touch of money. What remains to be done then is either to walk away (which does not address the question of how this is to be done) or to profane what is.

Both gestures may be described as constitutive of an apocalyptic politics; a politics that allows us to see the our world as the expanding desert that it is.

To share: a Situationist reflection on détournement and the work of two collectives, the older Brandalism and the more recent Subvertisers, who engage in profanation.

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Update from nicaragua

The CrimethInc. Collective continues to provide valuable reports and analyses about events in Nicaragua

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The gilets jaunes: Those who walk away from capital

While the politicians and the media scrutinise the weekly accounting of the number of demonstrators with each Act of the yellow vests’ movement, closely seconded by sociologists and political scientists, the movement persists, defying all predictions.

And even if it were to wane henceforth, it would remain the most durable and radical social upheaval of this young century, in a “developed” country. “Why?” and “how?” continue to echo; sadly, even among “Leftists”, of all stripes, with their a priori ideologies of the causes of social movements and the conditions of their success.

The movement however flouts tired recipes and frayed predictions: it lacks sociological and ideological “unity”, rejects representation (it is radically horizontal), refuses structured organisation, makes few or no demands that any government could meet, ignores the agencies (political parties, labour unions, etc) of institutionalised politics, and yet, it persists. And it does so for reasons that violate the standardised theoretical and ideological accounts of such phenomena.

It is not that we have the answers, for the the yellow vests are testimony to fundamental changes in the nature of capitalist social relations, changes that alter or shift the grounds of radical anti-capitalism.

For over three centuries, Capital has forcefully captured and commodified agencies (“resources”) that flourished beyond anything measurable by money. It did so in ways that were always challenged and contested, and Capital changed in response to each rebellion. More importantly, it has been able in the course of this time to “internalise” what were initially “external” resistances, such that today, Capital reigns over the greater part of the surface of the globe (indeed, it does so to such an extent, that it risks destroying the life conditions for the human species).

Rebellion or revolution can not come from within (the illusion of the “Left”); it never did. And today, that which fed the rebellions of the past is dead or dying. The crisis, or crises, are now permanent and existential. In other words, it is living time and space that must be recreated, such that we may, at the same time, re-make (and re-make …) ourselves. And this can only be accomplished by those who walk away from Capital.

To share …

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In the realm of violence: The State and law

Overlapping analyses of State violence, with greece as the laboratory …

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Anselme Bellegarrigue: The World’s First Anarchist Manifesto

I have no ancestors! For me the creation of the world dates from the day of my birth; for me the end of the world will be accomplished on the day when I shall restore to the elementary mass the apparatus and the afflatus which constitute my individuality. I am the first man, I shall be the last. My history is the complete result of humanity; I know no other, I care to know no other. When I suffer, what good do I get from another’s enjoyment? When I enjoy, in what do those who suffer detract from my pleasures? Of what consequence to me is that which happened before me? How am I concerned in what will happen after me? It is not for me to serve as a sacrifice to respect for extinct generations, or as an example to posterity. I confine myself within the circle of my existence, and the only problem that I have to solve is that of my welfare. I have but one doctrine, that doctrine has but one formula, that formula has but one word: ENJOY! Sincere is he who confesses it; an impostor is he who denies it.

This is bare individualism, native egoism; I do not deny it, I confess it, I verify it, I boast of it. Show me, that I may question him, the man who would reproach and blame me. Does my egoism do you any harm? If you say no, you have no reason to object to it, for i am free in all that does not injure you. If you say yes, you are a thief, for, my egoism being only the simple appropriation of myself by myself, an appeal to my identity, an affirmation of my individuality, a protest against all supremacy, if you admit that you are damaged by my act in taking possession of myself, by my retention of my own person — that is, the least disputable of my properties — you will declare thereby that I belong to you, or, at least, that you have designs on me; you are an owner of men, either established as such or intending to be, a monopolist, a coveter of another’s person, a thief. There is no middle ground; either right lies with egoism, or it lies with theft; either I belong to myself, or I become the possession of someone else. It cannot be said that I should sacrifice myself for the good of all, since, all having to similarly sacrifice themselves, no one would gain more by this stupid game than he had lost, and consequently, each would remain destitute — that is, without profit, which clearly would make such sacrifice absurd. If, then, the abnegation of all cannot be profitable to all, it must of necessity be profitable to a few; these few, then, are the possessors of all, and are probably the very ones who will complain of my egoism.

Every man is an egoist; whoever ceases to be one becomes a thing. He who pretends it is not necessary to be one is a sly thief.

Oh, yes, I know, the word has an ugly sound; so far you have applied it to those who are not satisfied with what belongs to them, to those who take to themselves what belongs to others; but such people are in accord with human impulse; you are not. In complaining of their capacity, do you know what you do? You establish your own imbecility. Hitherto you have believed there were tyrants. Well, you are mistaken: there are only slaves.

Where nobody obeys nobody commands.

Anselme Bellegarigue

Words that speak for themselves …

We share Anselm Bellegarrigue’s anarchist manifesto, as one of the seminal texts of the tradition. We close with a brief autobiography by George Woodcock.

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For May Day

Reflections on work and the limits of work centred anti-capitalism (from spain)

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And now, a word from our sponsors …


On this, the occasion of May Day (in english and portuguese) …

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From extinction rebellion to desirous rebellion

At the moment when all humanity lives under the menace of possible annihilation, for the very means of this annihilation have ceased to be illusory, then the whole of the real, all at once, descends into fiction.

Marcel Mariën, Théorie de la révolution mondiale immédiate

When the world ends, people come out of their apartments and meet their neighbors for the first time; they share food, stories, companionship. No one has to go to work or the laundromat; nobody remembers to check the mirror or scale or email account before leaving the house. Graffiti artists surge into the streets; strangers embrace, sobbing and laughing. Every moment possesses an immediacy formerly spread out across months. Burdens fall away, people confess secrets and grant forgiveness, the stars come out over New York City…and nine months later, a new generation is born.

CrimethInc. Collective

There is something overwhelmingly simple about the Extinction Rebellion (and sister movements: the student school strikes for the climate, earth strike, climate offensive), its idealism; an idealism that in part explains its resonance in the rapid multiplication and expansion of protests.

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Remembering a revolution: Portugal 1974-5

On this, the 45th anniversary of the portuguese revolution, we share a brief account of the revolutionary events of 1974-75 by Raquel Varela (excerpted from her monograph, A Peoples’ History of the Portuguese Revolution, Pluto, 2019) and published at Roarmag.

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