The war against autonomy: The State attacks the ZAD of Notre-Dame-des-Landes

This April 9th, the expulsion of the ZAD of Notre-Dame-des-Landes began.  If the proposed airport for the region was struck down, the french government has repeatedly announced that it will not accept the “illegal” occupation of the land by squatters.

Some 2,500 military police, with heavy equipment and demolition vehicles were mobilised for the occasion, for an estimated 250 people occupying some 40 structures.

If the forces of the State seem excessive, the language of the government leaves no room for doubt as to the motives.

The target, according to the police are the more radical elements of the ZAD. (Le monde 09/04/2018)  The prime minister, Edouard Philippe has not tired in repeating that it is a matter of reinstating the rule of law and that all of those whose presence in the Landes is not inscribed in a legal framework must quickly leave the territory. (Parisien 07/04/2018)  “I hope that during the day everything will be fine and that in a few weeks order will return to Notre-Dame-des-Landes,” said Gérard Collomb, minister of the interieur.  “The law had to be reinstated,” said the interior minister, who nevertheless reminded the police of the need to act with “restraint” and “ethics”. (Le monde 09/04/2018)

Between the lines, it does not take a great deal to see what is in fact at stake.  The so called “radicals” are not only those people, all of the people, who have resisted successfully the construction of an airport (in a fifty year struggle), and thus the saving of a way of life and its associated environment, but they are as well those who have experimented with autonomous forms of life, and it is this that must be destroyed and erased.

The law, and the creation of the leveled space of “normality” in which the law can function, revels itself as thereby grounded in the “exception” of violence, which is in fact itself the norm.

The ZAD of Notre-Dame-des-Landes resonated across france, and beyond.  And whatever its fate today, it stands as an example of what a radical anti-capitalism can be.

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Brazil and the permanent state of exception

A prisoner of my class and some clothing, I walk,
dressed in white along the gray street.
Melancholy and merchandise harass me.
Must I keep going until I collapse?
Can I rebel without arms?

Filthy eyes in the tower clock
No, the time of complete justice hasn’t come.
It’s still the time for dung, bad poetry, phantasms and hope.

A poor time and a poor poet
Melt together in the same impasse.

In vain I try to explain myself, but the walls are deaf.
Beneath the skin of the words there are ciphers and codes.
The sun consoles the sick but does not renew them.
Things. How sad things are, considered without emphasis. A flower bloomed in the street!

To vomit this ennui on the city.
Forty years and no problem solved, not even stated.
No letter written or received.
The men all return home.
They are less free but carry newspapers and spell out the world, knowing they are losing it.

Crimes of the earth, how to pardon them?
I took part in many, others I hid.
Some I thought clever, they were published.
Smooth crimes, that help one to live.
The daily ration of error, home-delivered.
The fierce bakers of wrong.
The fierce milkmen of wrong.

To set fire to everything, me included.
They called the boy of 1918 an anarchist.
But my hate is the best part of me.
With it I save myself
and give to a few a small hope.

Let the trolleys, busses, the steel river of traffic, keep their distance.
A flower still in bud
Eludes the police, pierces the asphalt.
Observe complete silence, stop all business,
I swear a flower grew.

You can’t see its color.
Its petals aren’t open
Its name isn’t in the books.
It’s ugly, but really–it’s a flower.

I sit on the ground of the capital of the country at five in the afternoon
and slowly pass my hand on this insecure form.
Beside the mountains, massive clouds pile up.
Little white dots move on the sea, chickens in panic.
It’s ugly. But it’s a flower. It breached the asphalt, the ennui, the nausea and the hate.

Carlos Drummond de Andrade, The Flower and the Nausea

 

In Brazil, we are witnessing this intensification of violence, repression, and electronic surveillance not as an interruption of the rule of law, but as an extension of its logic. Today this is called the “austerity policy”—the similarities with Greece are evident, especially in Rio de Janeiro. These austerity measures are only the latest reallocation of resources in a centuries-ongoing series of colonial robberies channeling resources from the public purse into the pockets of the powerful, a process that precedes democracy yet has been stabilized by it. What is disappearing now is the illusory promise of isonomy (self-rule and equality under the law) that supposedly qualified Brazil as a modern democracy.

 

From the Crimethinc Collective, reflections on the “exceptional” politics of Brazil …

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Feminism and beyond in May 68

France’s May 68 not only created space for the emergence of a radical gay movement in the country (with the FHAR), but a parallel feminist movement as well, as expressed in the Mouvement de libération des femmes (MLF).  We share a history of the movement by Françoise Picq (however much we may disagree with her evaluation of the MLF’s radicalism, her account, that of a former member of the group, remains of value), and a contemporary reflection on the limits of the May 68 imaginary for thinking through “women’s liberation”, by Paul B. Preciado (in translation).

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The long and winding May of 1968 (7): Argentina’s Uprising

We share a study by James P. Brennan, of the 1969 uprising in the Argentine city of Cordoba, known as the Cordobazo, which saw students and workers rise up against the military dictatorship of General Juan Carlos Onganía with a series of strikes and urban riots. (libcom.org)

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The long and winding May of 1968 (6): German student movement

We share below Manfred Buddeberg’s essay, The Student Movement in West Germany, written at the height of events in 1968 (From International Socialism, No.33, Summer 1968, and translated by Jennifer Bell, and available at the site marxists.org).
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The long and winding May of 1968 (5): Japanese Anarchism 1960s

To share, a brief account of the anarchist movement in the 1960s of japan, by Michael Schmidt, followed by the third chapter of John Crump’s essay, The Anarchist Movement in Japan, 1906–1996.

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Was there something queer about May 68?: The FHAR and Guy Hocquenghem

Workers of the world, masturbate!

Front Homosexuel d’Action Revolutionnaire slogan

We should put into practice the truth that there is no revolutionary subject—there is no subject at all. There are only historical drives that ruffle this or that part of our social skin, that vibrate this or that organ of our social body. In detaching ourselves from our identities, we are left to our uninterrupted passions.

Guy Hocquenghem, Volutions

During those days the dichotomies between activity and passivity, between private life and social life, between the demands of daily life and those of political life, between leisure and work and the places associated with them, between spoken and written language, between action and knowledge – all these dichotomies disappeared in the streets, amphitheatres and factories.  “Once the boundaries are crossed there are no more limits.”

Henri Lefebvre, The Explosion

 

The Front homosexuel d’action révolutionnaire was a child of france’s May 68.  If the latter extended beyond institutional politics, in its criticism of representation, and the spaces of production, in its understanding that capitalism reproduced in every sphere of daily life, then the FHAR, founded in 1971, was the active embodiment of the critique of hierarchical and hetero-male centred sex-gender-sexuality binaries that were deemed to be necessary for that same social reproduction.

The language of the FHAR was wild (as the speech of rebellion must always be) and we share two short texts written under its name.

Active in events of May 1968, a pioneer of homosexual liberation in the 1970s and founding member of Front homosexuel d’action révolutionnaire, Guy Hocquenghem would radicalise the legacy of May 68, both in his writing and in his life, through a vehement criticism of fetishistic conceptions of politics and revolution.

We share his essay Volutions, published in January 1974.  The piece reflects on the legacy of the events of May 1968 and the abandonment of so-called revolutionary thought soon after. Hocquenghem calls on his readers no longer to react to the bourgeois class and its values, but to find ways for turning (away) through “volutions” of action from the apathy of leftism. We have added some endnotes to show to what degree Hocquenghem’s nascent queer sensibility was fed by reading literature and revolutionary history. (Anarchist Library)

And we close with a film documentary on the FHAR.

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The long and winding May of 1968 (4): April 4 – The assassination of Martin Luther King

The african/black american struggle against slavery and racism far predates the rebellions of 1968.  Yet the 1960s marked an intensification in this struggle, comparable to few other moments in recent history.

We will not pretend to analyse this struggle in any detail, for to do so with any justice would take far more knowledge than we master.

It is however our belief that modern racism cannot be understood outside capitalism, that the struggle of african-americans in the 1960s , especially that of the Black Panther Party, understood this relationship, and that the race riots in the country’s cities during that decade were testimony to this struggle, as Guy Debord would write of the Watts riots.

On the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination, images of a time in black america’s rebellion …

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The long and winding May of 1968 (3): The italian autonomist movement

Autonomy is the body without organs of politics, anti-hierarchical, anti-dialectical, anti-representative.  It is not only a political project, it is a project for existence.

Individuals are never autonomous: they depend on external recognition.  The autonomous body is not exclusive or identifiable.  It is beyond recognition.  A body of workers, it breaks away from labour discipline; a body of militants, it ignores party organisation; a body of doctrine, it refuses ready-made classifications.

Autonomy has no frontiers.  It is a way of eluding the imperatives of production, the verticality of institutions, the traps of political representation, the virus of power. …

The body without organs of autonomy has no frontiers, but it does have a history, and this history is Italian.

Sylvere Lotringer and Christian Marazzi, The Return of Politics

 

It would be impossible to summarise the long italian “May” of autonomism in a short text.  And it will not be our aim to do so.  It is enough to say that for those unfamiliar with the movement, that the literature dedicated to it is both extensive and rich, and that its practical and theoretical contribution to anti-capitalist struggles remains fundamental.

Modestly, we share below four short essays that provide both a partial history of the movement (which in this instance, more than in many others, must be read in the plural), as well as theoretical reflections arising from and inspired by autonomism.

We close with a documentary film dedicated to the life and work of Antonio Negri.  And though Negri in no way represents the whole of the autonomist tradition and though we have serious theoretical differences with his work, the latter should not be simply dismissed.

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The long and winding May of 1968 (2): The student rebellion in Mexico

Our May 68 takes us to Mexico …

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