Gustav Landauer on the german revolution of 1918-19

Gustav Landauer would fully engage with the events of the German Revolution, both as writer and militant.  And if criticised certain decisions or actions, he did not hesitate to commit himself to revolution whose anarchist dimension is often ignored.

We share below a series of texts by Landauer available at the Passing on the Flame website.

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Remembrance: The German Revolution of November 9th, 1918

The end of the first world war was a moment of crisis in global capitalism; a crisis that was grasped by many as a possibility for revolution.  If the times would be above all marked by the russian revolution, its resonances would echo well beyond the countries borders, and perhaps nowhere more significantly in europe than in germany.

We share below a brief history of the events, complemented by a BBC podcast …

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Remembrance: The untold history of armistice and the end of World War I

A Short Poem for Armistice Day

Gather or take fierce degree
trim the lamp set out for sea
here we are at the workmen’s entrance
clock in and shed your eminence.

Notwithstanding, work it diverse ways
work it diverse days, multiplying four digestions
here we make artificial flowers
of paper tin and metal thread.

One eye one leg one arm one lung
a syncopated sick heart-beat
the record is not nearly worn
that weaves a background to our work.

I have no power therefore have patience
These flowers have no sweet scent
no lustre in the petal no increase
from fertilising flies and bees.

No seed they have no seed
their tendrils are of wire and grip
the buttonhole the lip
and never fade.

And will not fade though life
and lustre go in genuine flowers
and men like flowers are cut
and wither on a stem.

And will not fade a year or more
I stuck one in a candlestick
and there it clings about the socket
I have no power therefore have patience.

Herbert Read

Continuing reflections on the anniversary of the armistice of world war one …

‘The best antidote to ideology is detail,’ writes Paul Mason. And the detail that’s missing this Armistice Day is that working people, when they take power into their own hands, can end whatever catastrophe is imposed on them. (libcom.org)

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Remembrance: Lest We Forget – Workers Stopped Capitalism’s First World War

Repression of War Experience

Now light the candles; one; two; there’s a moth;
What silly beggars they are to blunder in
And scorch their wings with glory, liquid flame—
No, no, not that,—it’s bad to think of war,
When thoughts you’ve gagged all day come back to scare you;
And it’s been proved that soldiers don’t go mad
Unless they lose control of ugly thoughts
That drive them out to jabber among the trees.

Now light your pipe; look, what a steady hand.
Draw a deep breath; stop thinking; count fifteen,
And you’re as right as rain …
Why won’t it rain? …
I wish there’d be a thunder-storm to-night,
With bucketsful of water to sluice the dark,
And make the roses hang their dripping heads.

Books; what a jolly company they are,
Standing so quiet and patient on their shelves,
Dressed in dim brown, and black, and white, and green,
And every kind of colour. Which will you read?
Come on; O do read something; they’re so wise.
I tell you all the wisdom of the world
Is waiting for you on those shelves; and yet
You sit and gnaw your nails, and let your pipe out,
And listen to the silence: on the ceiling
There’s one big, dizzy moth that bumps and flutters;
And in the breathless air outside the house
The garden waits for something that delays.
There must be crowds of ghosts among the trees,—
Not people killed in battle,—they’re in France,—
But horrible shapes in shrouds–old men who died
Slow, natural deaths,—old men with ugly souls,
Who wore their bodies out with nasty sins.

*          *          *

You’re quiet and peaceful, summering safe at home;
You’d never think there was a bloody war on! …
O yes, you would … why, you can hear the guns.
Hark! Thud, thud, thud,—quite soft … they never cease—
Those whispering guns—O Christ, I want to go out
And screech at them to stop—I’m going crazy;
I’m going stark, staring mad because of the guns.

Siegfried Sassoon

 

Continuing reflections on the anniversary of the armistice of world war one …

The 100th anniversary of the Armistice, which we are told put a stop to the first world war, happens to coincide with remembrance Sunday, or Poppy Day. So we’re in for a treat. On top of poppy-wearing – now almost de rigueur – and two minute silences in the most improbable places, there are some smashing events in store. While local volunteers polish up war memorials, craft red poppy memorabilia, there are all sorts of state-sponsored celebrations, to mark the 11th hour of the eleventh day, in November 1918 when “the guns fell silent”. (libcom.org)

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Remembrance: Of war and against war

The Drum

I hate that drum’s discordant sound,
Parading round, and round, and round:
To thoughtless youth it pleasure yields,
And lures from cities and from fields,
To sell their liberty for charms
Of tawdry lace and glitt’ring arms;
And when Ambition’s voice commands,
To fight and fall in foreign lands.

I hate that drum’s discordant sound,
Parading round, and round, and round:
To me it talks of ravaged plains,
And burning towns and ruin’d swains,
And mangled limbs, and dying groans,
And widow’s tears, and orphans moans,
And all that Misery’s hand bestows,
To fill a catalogue of woes.

John Scott (1730-83)

 

Dulce et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Wilfred Owen

 

We say that if America has entered the war to make the world safe for democracy, she must first make democracy safe in America. How else is the world to take America seriously, when democracy at home is daily being outraged, free speech suppressed, peaceable assemblies broken up by overbearing and brutal gangsters in uniform; when free press is curtailed and every independent opinion gagged. Verily, poor as we are in democracy, how can we give of it to the world? We further say that a democracy conceived in the military servitude of the masses, in their economic enslavement, and nurtured in their tears and blood, is not democracy at all. It is despotism — the cumulative result of a chain of abuses which, according to that dangerous document, the Declaration of Independence, the people have the right to overthrow.

Emma Goldman

 

As presidents and prime-ministers gather to watch armies march through capital cities in europe, in state memorial celebrations (this the 100th anniversay) of the armistice that brought an end to the first world war, we remember the anarchist resistance to the war and the meaning of war for anarchist revolutionary politics.

From Robert Graham’s Anarchism Weblog

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Miguel Amorós: Between capitalism and anti-capitalism – the struggle for territory (2)

For us, nature is not a pre-social fact, but a product of culture and history, a space defined by an eminently rural sense of time, which is why we shall employ the word “territory” when referring to it. Similarly, by “society” we mean industrial, urban society, since this is its historical form under the capitalist regime. After this clarification, we must say that this territory is governed by laws that are very different from the ones that govern the mass society that is colonizing it. The most important of these laws can be framed as follows: everything is connected, everything is related to everything else. In mass society, on the other hand, each element acts in isolation from the others, and it is not human needs that determine its action, but, quite to the contrary, it is this action that determines those needs. Today the territory is poorly socialized nature; society is poorly naturalized humanity.

The application of revolutionary remedies is impossible in societies that are not predominantly rural, horizontal and egalitarian, and therefore communitarian in an anti-developmentalist context of de-urbanization and de-globalization. A program that would promote this kind of society challenges the powerful forces that rule today’s society of massification and exclusion. Its profits—and its power—are linked to its permanence and to the intensification of its characteristic traits. These forces have chosen the technological way, which usually means bigger harvests, more cars, more capital, more consumption, more people. They have opted for the disaster that makes them more productive and brings them the most profit. No modification in the production, circulation or consumption of commodities that militates against their interests will be accepted without a struggle. No struggle is worth the trouble, however, that does not force them to retreat. There are no easy ways of transition: all the alternatives to capitalism will be hard. The battle will be very unequal: on the one side are the mercenary armies of the oligarchy; on the other, the badly equipped popular mobilizations. Even so, this does not mean that the victory of Power is assured. If the just forces of the truth are still weak, the catastrophic errors committed by domination will strike a new balance in the scales of the battle.

Miguel Amorós

The second of two essays by Miguel Amorós on the concept of “territory”, and a further contribution our series on the “May 68 writers” Amorós, Jaime Semprun, Amedeo Bertolo and Eduardo Colombo.

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Miguel Amorós: Between capitalism and anti-capitalism – the struggle for territory (1)

It is revolutionary to know how to make a loaf of bread, but it is also revolutionary to know how to make a barricade. Its segregation as well as its resistance do not have the goal of its isolated survival but the consolidation of community and the abolition of capitalism. The reestablishment of open council meetings, the creation of social “currency”, reducing the length of the circuits between production and consumption, or the recovery of the communal lands, should not be “alter-capitalist” paths and pretexts for inactivity or citizenism. Their purpose in the domain of the oikos is the production of use values, not exchange values. They are not the identifying symbols of the rural hipster ghetto, but distinct aspects of a single struggle, the struggle for a territory emancipated from the commodity and the state, whose atmosphere will make everyone who breathes it free. They are elements of the greatest importance upon whose correct combination an effective strategy that can lead the forces of historical consciousness to victory will depend. Its elaboration is the task of the anti-developmentalist critique, which, unlike other types of critique, does not get bogged down in abstract theoretical generalizations nor does it assume a position of pure negativity or activist positivity, because, in a quite concrete way, it knows what it wants. That is why it does not try to catch the moon in its reflection on the water. It knows exactly where to look to find things.

Miguel Amorós

The concept of “territory” is at the heart of Miguel Amorós’ critical thought.  It is both the lens through which he reads the violence of capitalism (capitalism is the appropriation and commodification of all social life bound to territory) and the emancipatory practices of radical, anti-capitalist politics (anti-capitalism demands the liberation of territory from the State and Capital, and the (re)-creating of territorial social relations through the free, collective ruralisation of urban spaces and the overcoming of the rural-urban divide of colonised territory).

The overlapping consequences of such a vision are significant: anti-capitalism can only define itself in a total rejection of capitalist social relations; (the desire for) re-territorialisation is the condition for the possibility of constituting a revolutionary subject, a subject possessed by/of an orientation in the space and time opposed to the alienation and commodity production of spectacle; the making of territory is essential for the reconstitution of history, and thus for the possibility of an emancipatory history.

Without territory, we are lost: cut off from that which ultimately sustains human communities, the land; condemned to subjection to managerial-technical “solutions” for the multiple crises of our times, or deluded by”utopian” nostalgia; severed from that which situates us (orientation in time and space) and gives us depth of agency (subjectivity).

The struggle for territory is the struggle against the alienation that perpetuates the production and reproduction of the State and Capital and the struggle for autonomous forms of life.

We share below the first of two essays by Amorós on “territory”, further contributions to our series on the “May 68 writers” Amorós, Jaime Semprun, Amedeo Bertolo and Eduardo Colombo.

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Miguel Amorós: Anti-capitalism as a struggle for space

A basic principle of anti-developmentalism says that a society full of capital is an urban society, which is why a society without capital must be an agrarian society. From this perspective, a liberated urban space would therefore have to be a de-urbanized space. This does not mean the disappearance of the city, which has already been accomplished by the conurbation, but the positive supersession of the city-country opposition and the radical rejection of the decay of both realities into an amorphous sludge. The recovery of the city, the axis of the project in which urban struggles must be inscribed, is paradoxically a process of ruralization.

Urban struggles must reveal a new subject, a new proletariat that does not deny by affirming, but affirms by denying; a proletariat that does not seek to universalize the working class condition, but rejects it outright. If it does not question labor itself, it does not question capital: real anti-capitalism is anti-workerist. In order for a collective subject, or, what amounts to the same thing, a class, to constitute itself, it must create its specific space from which it can join forces against the enemy class. The space of capital, populated with wage workers, motorists and consumers, is not adequate for this purpose. It must be transformed, and to do this the first thing that must be done is to deliver it from the grasp of the market. It must cease to be a space of labor, of consumption, of circulation, of leisure, etc. In the new liberated space, its inhabitants must achieve a sufficient degree of autonomy (with regard to food, clothing, shoes, education, transport, health, self-defense, information, etc.). Autonomy is the precondition for the negation of capitalism, the anti-capitalist class, to be able to exist.

Miguel Amorós

Autonomy from capital is not to be found in the appropriation of capitalist means of production, for the latter are grounded in and generate the oppressive relations of social reproduction that underlie it.  Anti-capitalism demands the creation of spaces beyond capital, what Miguel Amorós calls “territory”, a sort of inter-zone between controlled urban space and colonised and/or abandoned rural spaces (e.g. the ZAD of Notre-Dame-des-Landes).

A further contribution to our understanding of our present, as part of a series on “May 68 writers”, sharing the work of Amorós, Jaime Semprun, Amedeo Bertolo and Eduardo Colombo.

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The struggle against borders

From Crimethinc

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Miguel Amorós: Technology and the making of fascist totalitarianism

Without a historical subject, the unity of theory and practice, of reality and reason, is impossible. Events do not awaken consciousness, but at most instill resignation, thus tending to lose their significance as the terrain of practice, but never totally. While it is true that there is no revolutionary class, since all that exists now are masses, it is no less certain that minorities still survive amidst the masses, minorities who have not admitted defeat and who believe in the possibility of a revolutionary practice. The radical struggles that do take place, although few and far between, are the manifest proof that not all is lost. Fascism rules in the geographical center, but not one hundred percent. The normalization of catastrophe is not yet automatic. It is a poor foundation but it is the only practical basis for a revolutionary critique. Every aspect of the lives of the masses is the object of exploitation, and in this respect as well the masses are different from classes. For the masses there is no distinction between work and non-work, which is why struggles cannot be circumscribed by the confines of the workplace. Furthermore, struggles that affect the places where people live have a much greater chance of generating consciousness. Thus, the defense of the urban neighborhoods or the territory, insofar as they demand the self-management of areas, of areas as the space of freedom and desire, is more clarifying. In a fascist environment broad movements and huge dissident organizations, such as characterize the Third World countries, are not possible, but on a small scale solidarity and resistance, information and debate, theory and practice, are perfectly plausible. So that within modern totalitarianism a micro-society of dissidents—a veritable ghetto—is feasible, but in a clandestine state, outside of the din of the mass media. It could find support in the larger struggles, but without allowing itself to be mystified by them. This ghetto has a paradoxically conservative function, since it must rescue the emancipatory and libertarian dream of past struggles from the “uninterrupted noise of all social situations” and preserve it for a time when men and women will “finally be forced to contemplate their real life and mutual relations without illusions” (Karl Marx, “The Communist Manifesto”). It must be invisible to the eyes of power, and therefore outside of the law, unrecuperable, criminal; only thus can it cast light on the cracks in this system that is constantly undergoing self-destruction and help to make these cracks bigger at the right moment. Nothing is objectively certain; history promises nothing. Resistance might become a subject, or it might become merely a picturesque detail in a panorama of desolation, it all depends on how we play our cards.

Miguel Amorós

Technology is not a neutral collection of tools, mere means for mastered goals.  As an integral part of spectacle capitalism, it defines contemporary social relations, erasing pasts and futures, historical subjectivities, moulding new politics of oppression.

The essay shared below continues our exploration of Miguel Amorós analyses of capitalism, along with that of other May 68 writers, Jaime Semprun, Amedeo Bertolo and Eduardo Colombo.

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