Our job is to see, to make things seen or to inform, but we never see enough. I knew around a dozen caryatides and then I discovered fifty of them.
I fought for a radical cinema, and I continued all my life.
There is no truth, Agnès Varda once said, in speaking of documentary film. It is always a matter of perspective, a perspective that must be shaped by a particular representation or artistic language, what Varda called cinécriture. Without the self-conscious elaboration of such formal mediation, film falls into the illusions of realism, the lie of wanting to “tell it like it is”, or to narrate a total story, thereby blinding us to what is not to be seen (and to the fact that the film maker does not see everything).
There are always lacuna in what we see, in what can be seen. To be aware of these absences humbles us, weakens the hold of our ego, and thereby opens us to realities that we can never exhaust, and allows those realities to speak. We learn to see beauty.
Varda’s cinema moves easily between fiction and documentary because for her, the distinction was of no importance. Like an artisan, she crafted images, moving images with care and respect for what she captured with the camera’s eye. Her’s was a cinema not of “vérités”, but of “souvenirs”; of image-memories from which we could find and create perspectives. And it was from this in-formed perspective that she herself would move through various personal and political issues in her films.
Agnès Varda’s cinema was – is – a cinema of liberation.
Agnès Varda died this last 29th of March at the age of 90.
The Temps critique collective (22/03/2019), in a finely developed analysis of the yellow vests movement(s) of france, elaborates three fundamental criticisms: the movement has hitherto been unable to define itself, it has equally failed to understand its “enemy”, and it risks political isolation. If the analysis is pertinent, it is also framed by time, that is, the yellow vests are a movement in movement and their ability to overcome their weakness will only be decided in the heat of events.
The yellow vests insurrection offers lessons beyond or in parallel to the often celebrated insurrections of the Zapatistas in Chiapas and of the Rojava “Revolution”. In no way dismissing these latter, the yellow vests speak more directly to those living in the “advanced” capitalist states, where indigenous populations, the peasantry, regional ethnic identities, industrial working classes have all waned or disappeared (never peacefully).
The yellow vests are a premonition of what insurrection, revolution, may be in the end times of ecological collapse and neo-liberal authoritarianism.
Rebellion will no longer be the act of a “people”, of a “class”, in any unified sense of these terms. It will be, as is the yellow vests’ insurrection, a plural and contradictory rebellion, created and defined in the movements of the movement. It will have no end beyond itself (none can be outlined); it will not be a means to an end, or an end justifying all means. It will be a permanent rebellion where social relations remain plastic, constantly changeable, fleeing from and struggling against those who would seek to harness the wild energy unleashed. In the midst of this an-archy, we catch a glimpse of autonomy.
… to participate knowingly in a group, even if only temporarily, with a view to preparing, characterised by one or more material evidence, intentional violence against persons or the destruction or degradation of property is punishable by one year of imprisonment and a fine of 15,000 Euros.
Article 222-14-2 of the french penal code (introduced under the Nicolas Sarkozy presidency)
… when a demonstration is not declared, is prohibited, when it is organised to vandalise [casser/to break], all of those who participate, who in fact protect the vandals, who encourage them or glorify them on social networks, are complicit with them.
Eduoard Philippe, french prime minister interpreting the above cited article (Le Monde 20/043/2019)
We assume our crime.
We assume our solidarity with all of the “yellow vests” who for four months have imagined and acted to create a different world, freed from an untouchable and arrogant oligarchy, liberated from the reign of money; a world of solidarity experienced in occupations, assemblies, protests and self-defense.
We assume our solidarity with all of the “yellow vests” who have been the targets of State violence.
We assume our defense of rebellion against and escape from a social-political-economic system – capitalism – that rests upon the domination, exploitation and destruction of living nature.
Putting Ideas on Trial: The Greek State’s Laboratory of Repression – An Interview with Nikos Romanos, Imprisoned Anarchist
After several failed attempts across Europe to frame anarchists and other anti-authoritarians with conspiracy and terrorism charges, the Greek state is at the forefront of developing new legal strategies to attack social movements. Article 187A of the Greek legal penal code has existed since 2004, but last year, Greek officials used it in a new way against Nikos Romanos and several other anarchist prisoners, convicting and sentencing them to many years in prison based on a new interpretation of the article. Regardless of whether these verdicts are overturned in higher courts, the trials indicate a major strategic shift in the policing of social movements in Greece. They offer an important warning sign about the new forms that repression may assume around the world as social conflict intensifies.
Today we had people who tried by all of the means available … to injure the Republic, to damage, to destroy, at the risk of killing.
Emmanuel Macron (Le Monde 19/03/2019)
Saturday, we saw extreme violence in Paris. It was almost para-military groups, looters, zadists.
Government official (Le Monde 19/03/2019)
Before, the black blocks frightened everyone, now they are taken as a plus. It is they who make things move forward; we, we were too pacifist.
It’s great that things are vandalised because the bourgeoisie are so sheltered in their bubble that it is necessary that they feel fear physically, for their security, for them to give up.
Voices of Act XVIII yellow vest protesters in Paris (Le Monde 19/03/2019)
Le Monde‘s front page of Tuesday, March 19th, reads “L’Exécutif contraint de répondre aux violence [“The Executive is constrained/obliged to respond to the violence”]”. Yet as the yellow vests movement(s) enters its fourth month, after thousands have been gassed and beaten, after thousands have been arrested, after hundreds have been hurt and dozens crippled or blinded, it is difficult to know how to take the title.
Our own title then is meant to clarify matters.
Act XVIII of the yellow vests was concentrated in Paris, with a confluence with other protests in the city (most notably, against global warming). It brought part of the capital to halt, vandalised symbols and institutions of wealth, and in forcing once again that hand of the government (the president was forced to cut short his skiing vacation), the movement continues to radicalise in a seemingly endless and growing challenge to political and economic authority.
As Macron’s ministers throw responsibility for the violence on “organised radicals”, accuse each other of mismanagement, and then promise even more draconian security measures (with the famed national debate rapidly fading into the background), for those who continue to contest and create, the answer is increasingly to continue to rebel … for what is there to return to?
Every person who ever thought he had a right to assert, and went boldly and asserted it, himself, or jointly with others that shared his convictions, was a direct actionist. Some thirty years ago I recall that the Salvation Army was vigorously practising direct action in the maintenance of the freedom of its members to speak, assemble, and pray. Over and over they were arrested, fined, and imprisoned; but they kept right on singing, praying, and marching, till they finally compelled their persecutors to let them alone. The Industrial Workers are now conducting the same fight, and have, in a number of cases, compelled the officials to let them alone by the same direct tactics.
Every person who ever had a plan to do anything, and went and did it, or who laid his plan before others, and won their co-operation to do it with him, without going to external authorities to please do the thing for them, was a direct actionist. All co-operative experiments are essentially direct action.
Every person who ever in his life had a difference with anyone to settle, and went straight to the other persons involved to settle it, either by a peaceable plan or otherwise, was a direct actionist. Examples of such action are strikes and boycotts; many persons will recall the action of the housewives of New York who boycotted the butchers, and lowered the price of meat; at the present moment a butter boycott seems looming up, as a direct reply to the price-makers for butter.
These actions are generally not due to any one’s reasoning overmuch on the respective merits of directness or indirectness, but are the spontaneous retorts of those who feel oppresses by a situation. In other words, all people are, most of the time, believers in the principle of direct action, and practices of it. However, most people are also indirect or political actionists. And they are both these things at the same time, without making much of an analysis of either. There are only a limited number of persons who eschew political action under any and all circumstances; but there is nobody, nobody at all, who has ever been so “impossible” as to eschew direct action altogether.
Voltairine de Cleyre, Direct Action
… self-defence, paradoxically, has no subject – I mean to say that the subject that it defends does not preexist this movement of resistance to the violence of which it has become the target. Understood in this sense, self-defence has to do with what I propose to call “martial ethics of self”.
A shared reflection in the wake of the international feminist strike of March 8 (and for Christophe Dettinger) …
Who has the right to defend themselves? Who by contrast is excluded from this privilege and with what consequences?
These questions are at the heart of Elsa Dorlin’s essay, Se Défendre: Une Philosophie de la violence [To defend oneself: A Philosophy of violence] (Éditions La Découverte, Paris, 2017). The aim of the work is not to trace the long history of the “right” to self-defence, but to narrate a genealogy of modern power in which self-defence constitutes beneath or above the law a politics of subjectification.
If the right to self-defence is the basis for the elaboration of social contract political theory, the source and norm for establishing the limits of legitimate political authority, its role in defining the modern subject points beyond such legal-normative concerns, towards practices of subjectification.
Dorlin’s essay tells a story in which self-defence appears as a repertoire of practices and strategies for confronting-escaping the apparatuses of State control, in its many and overlapping modern guises. While States endeavour to define who can and who cannot defend themselves – thereby excluding from any legal and/or institutional protection those who cannot (the indefensible) -, practices of self-defence have sought to create tactics and strategies of escape-response to State power; not however through demands for inclusive recognition (new “citizenship”), but through acts of excluding-destructive sabotage (rebellious subjects).
If modern States have been obliged to respond to the first through the attribution of rights, they have done so at the cost of exposure of subjects to surveillance and control.
Rebellious subjectivities have always been susceptible to legal and institutional domestication, or worse, become complicit with reactionary social relations. But it is among the rebellious that insurrection and revolution is born.
The story of the British suffragettes, as told by Dorlin, is paradigmatic in this sense; a story that continues to proffer lessons for those who wish to imagine and create a feminism beyond “women’s rights”.
(What follows is a translation of the final section of the second chapter of Se Défendre. We have not included the end notes from the original text.)