On July 11, 2019, I visited VIO.ME, a worker run factory located in Thessaloniki, Greece. I had the opportunity to meet with one of the workers who was able to put aside time from his busy schedule for us to talk about the occupation, its significance and challenges.
What follows are some thoughts and reflections based on the conversation I had during this encounter and the written material available on the VIO.ME website. I believe that the issues raised here will provide the basis for a much more in depth discussion (or discussions) towards positing for us future directions.
Une juste colère – Interrompre la destruction du monde/A just anger – Interrupting the destruction of the world, by the historian and anthropologist Jérôme Baschet, will appear on September 12 with Editions Divergences. We publish a few good pages and therefore this good chapter, among others.
Walter Benjamin, in an early and originally unpublished essay, described capitalism as a religion, a purely cultic religion without dogma or theology; a religion in which things and deeds have meaning only in relation to the cult. The ends are set; it is the means that must be proscribed, enforced and submitted to. To ask why is to fail to understand the rituals, the meaning and value of things; it is to be outside the religion.
The cult is also permanent, knowing no limits in time and space. And failure to abide by it engenders guilt. But without anything to offer but the continuation of the space, the guilt cannot be atoned; this is a religion of despair, which can only end in the very destruction of the conditions of its possibility, which is to say human life.
If previous to the contemporary totalisation of capitalism, other ways of life framed and limited the new religion of instrumental reason (paradoxically, also rendering it possible, as capitalist social relations are unable to secure their own reproduction without consuming non-capitalist social relations), there is little which reigns it in, with the attendant proliferation of social crises (with parallel political, existential and ecological expressions).
The gilets jaunes are the orphaned children of an autophagic society. And if it cannot be said of them that they are the gravediggers of what engendered them, they are nevertheless (and increasingly) the face of insurrection in our time.
And if anti-capitalism is to gain root in or find escape from the “developed” world, then we must learn to read the gilets jaunes as an eruption of intense life capable of seeding non-capitalist forms of life.
From lundi matin #207, 09/09/2019, reflections on the yellow vests’ movement …
The gilets jaunes, an analyser of the reproduction of capitalist social relations [Temps critiques]
For the irregular publication Temps Critiques (to be consulted on this free site), the yellow vests’ movement must be seen “as a resistance to the revolution of capital” (and which also “functions” as an ‘analyser’ of the crisis of reproduction of capitalist social relations”). The authors of this article, yellow vests themselves (the gilets jaunes being “nothing outside of its community of struggle”), describe the movement of the roundabouts as a “collective heresy” marked both by “the refusal of planned protest marches” and the outline of “less capitalised life practices shared in the joyful conviviality of ‘cabins'”.
To experience a thing as beautiful means: to experience it necessarily wrongly.
… photographs become standard evidence for historical occurrences, and acquire a hidden political significance.
Photography is the process of rendering observation self-conscious.
A photograph is effective when a chosen moment which it records contains a quantum of truth which is generally applicable, which is revealing about what is absent from the photograph as about what is present in it. The nature of this quantum of truth, and the ways in which it can be discerned, vary greatly. It may be found in an expression, an action, a juxtaposition, a visual ambiguity, a configuration. Nor can this truth ever be independent of the spectator.
Every photograph is in fact a means of testing, confirming and constructing a total view of reality. Hence the crucial role of photography in ideological struggle. Hence thee necessity of our understanding a weapon which we can use and which can be used against us.
Peter Berger, Understanding a photograph
The camera is a kind of passport that annihilates moral boundaries and social inhibitions, freeing the photographer from any responsibility toward the people photographed. The whole point of photographing people is that you are not intervening in their lives, only visiting them. The photographer is a supertourist, an extension of the anthropologist, visiting natives and bringing back news of their exotic doings and strange gear. The photographer is always trying to colonize new experiences or find new ways to look at familiar subjects – to fight against boredom. For boredom is just the reverse side of fascination: both depend on being outside rather than inside a situation, and one leads to the other.
The implicit intent of Frank and Arbus, and many of their contemporaries and juniors, is to show that America is the grave of the Occident.
Susan Sontag, On Photography
Robert Frank…he sucked a sad poem right out of America onto film, taking rank among the tragic poets of the world.
Jack Kerouac, introduction to The Americans
Robert Frank’s arguably best collection of photographs appears in book form under the title, The Americans. It may be justly said that we see the world differently and more truthfully through his eyes-lens, and it is this that we celebrate.
A full pdf version of this work is available here.
Don’t Blink – Robert Frank (2015)
by Laura Israel Publication date 2015-10-04
Robert Frank revolutionized photography and independent film. He documented the Beats, Welsh coal miners, Peruvian Indians, The Stones, London bankers, and the Americans. This is the bumpy ride, revealed with unblinking honesty by the reclusive artist himself.
“Robert Frank is gloriously notorious. He is the groundbreaking photographer of The Americans; the iconoclastic director of Pull My Daisy and Cocksucker Blues; a difficult (almost impossible) interview subject; a rejecter of wealth and celebrity; a man whose ‘sympathies were with people who struggled,’ who has a ‘mistrust of people who made the rules.’
He was also a father to a daughter, Andrea, and a son, Pablo, who both died young. His work is emotional and impulsive. Filmmaker Richard Linklater describes Frank, who emigrated to the United States from Switzerland in the 1940s, beautifully as “a restless, searching artist pushing the boundaries of the documentary, experimental, and more traditional narrative forms.”
We return to our series grouped under the title of “writers of May 68”, within which we have included Jaime Semprun, Miguel Amorós, Eduardo Colombo and Amedeo Bertolo. The reference to “May 68” is a political metaphor in this instance, for aside from Semprun, the other three writers were in their respective countries of origin at the time (Amorós was in spain, Bertolo in italy, and Colombo in argentina), but all four writers would be profoundly maked by the events of May and would endeavour to rethink anarchism in the wake of those events.
Having already presented a selection of essays by Semprun and Amorós, and an introductory piece by Colombo concerned with anarchism in argentina, with this post we initiate a translation of a collection of essays from spanish to english. Though the essays were originally published either in french or italian, our access to the spanish language publication dictates our choice.
The collection bears the title El espacio político de la anarquía: Esbozos para una filosofía política del anarquismo. The volume was published as a second edition in 2014 by two spanish anarchist collectives which no longer exists: the publisher Editorial Klinamen and Grupo Libertario Acción Directa. This translation is also a gesture of thanks for their work.
We will publish the essays in different posts, following the pace of translation. Our hope is that through Colombo’s work, as well as that of the other authors of this series, that english language readers may have access to some of the most important anarchist theory created in the wake of May 68.
What follows below is a publisher’s introduction, Colombo’s two prologues and a first essay. This last may be described as an exercise in the “history of ideas”, endeavoring as it does to identify ancient conceptual paradigms and how they have shaped human thought. Such exercises are however often fragile, for they do little more than throw up a theatre of conflicting ideas, rarely succeeding then in showing the “mechanics” of their real history, their connection or ties to events. The theatre gains flight and we are left simply gazing up at the spectacle; and depending on from where we look, the spectacle may appear very different indeed.
What Colombo lacks here, we suggest, is a genealogy in the Nietzschean or Foucauldian sense of the term (simplifying): an analysis of the contingent discursive and practical conditions for the possibility of ways of sensing, feeling, thinking and acting. They are, in Michel Foucault’s words, political histories of bodies.
It amazes me that people are surprised when underclasses rebel. The surprising thing is that they do not do it more often. The combination of the oppressiveness of poverty and racism and the lack of short-term, or even medium-term hope is surely a recipe for rebellion. What keeps rebellion down is fear of repression, which is why repression is usually swift. But the repression never makes the anger go away.
Whatever disagreements we may have with Immanuel Wallerstein’s marxist inspired social theory and politics, it would be the height of intellectual arrogance to simply dismiss Wallerstein’s intellectual labour for purely ideological reasons.
His “world-systems” approach to social-political analysis could often lead to closed readings of societies and events, ignoring the complexity of “capital accumulation” that he very typically placed at the centre of his own interpretations of social realities. But Wallertstein’s marxism was never blindly orthodox, as evidence over the length of his writings.
Immanuel Wallerstein died this last Saturday, August 31st. In tribute – and to share something of what we have learned from – we publish a series of pieces by and with Wallerstein: an interview published with Theory Talks (04/08/2008), the important essay on the “world revolution” of 1968 (Theory and Society 07/1989), articles on Occupy Wall Street (Verso 18/10/2011) and the Arab Spring (Al Jazeera 14/11/2011).
On the occasion of a 2019 edition of Stavros Stavrides‘s work Towards the city of thresholds (there is a 2010 edition – available on line -, published by professional dreamers), Roarmag published part of Stavrides’ “Introduction” to the essay.
With the events of Exarchia in the immediate background, but also that of the city or the metropolis as the territory of contemporary politics, looking back at Stavrides’ essay is fruitful.
At the heart of Stavrides reading of contemporary radical politics in city or urban space is the concept of “threshold”. Simplifying his analysis considerably, we may state that what characterises a radical politics is the opening up of and the keeping open of threshold spaces within the context of boundary making territorialising politics of control and exploitation. In sum, freedom comes with the profanation of spatial borders or is lived in the openes to the permanent potentiality of spatial relations: the contaminating everyday normality by what may not be the case, always.