Copying and pasting passages from a PDF produced some interesting line-breaks… These are from “Periodizing the ’60s” (which has some interesting ideas on the proliferation of small affinity groups in that period, via Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reason):
The final ambiguity with which we leave this
the 60s, often
imagined as a period
capital and first world power
are in retreat all over the globe, can
conceptualized as a
is in full dynamic and innovative expansion,
equipped with a whole armature of fresh production techniques and new
“means of production.”
doxical a “materialist” philosophy may be in this respect, a “materialist
language” will clearly
transform the very
function and operation
since it opens up a dynamic
in which it is no
longer ideas, but
rather texts, material texts, which
struggle with one another. Theory so
defined, (and it will have become clear that the term now greatly
what used to be called philosophy and its
specialized content) conceives of
its vocation, not as the discovery of truth and the repudiation of error, but
rather as a
struggle about purely linguistic formulations, as the attempt
formulate verbal propositions (material language)
in such a way
are unable to
imply unwanted or
in general (and the 60s in particular)
constitute a process
in which the last
internal and external zones
last vestiges of noncommodified or traditional space
within and outside the advanced world-
are now ultimately penetrated and
colonized in their turn. Late capitalism can therefore be described as the
moment in which the last vestiges of Nature which survived on into
classical capitalism are at
length eliminated: namely
the third world and the
The whole way of life of these professional conspirators has a most decidedly bohemian character. Recruiting sergeants for the conspiracy, they go from marchand de vin [wine merchant] to marchand de vin, feeling the pulse of the workers, seeking out their men, cajoling them into the conspiracy and getting either the society’s treasury or their new friends to foot the bill for the litres inevitably consumed in the process. Indeed it is really the marchand de vin who provides a roof over their heads. It is with him that the conspirator spends most of his time; it is here he has his rendezvous with his colleagues, with the members of his section and with prospective recruits; it is here, finally, that the secret meetings of sections (groups) and section leaders take place. The conspirator, highly sanguine in character anyway like all Parisian proletarians, soon develops into an absolute bambocheur in this continual tavern atmosphere. The sinister conspirator, who in secret session exhibits a Spartan self-discipline, suddenly thaws and is transformed into a tavern regular whom everybody knows and who really understands how to enjoy his wine and women. This conviviality is further intensified by the constant dangers the conspirator is exposed to; at any moment he may be called to the barricades, where he may be killed; at every turn the police set snares for him which may deliver him to prison or even to the galleys. Such dangers constitute the real spice of the trade; the greater the insecurity, the more the conspirator hastens to seize the pleasures of the moment. At the same time familiarity with danger makes him utterly indifferent to life and liberty. He is as at home in prison as in the wine-shop. He is ready for the call to action any day. The desperate recklessness which is exhibited in every insurrection in Paris is introduced precisely by these veteran professional conspirators, the hommes de coups de main [men of helping hands]. They are the ones who throw up and command the first barricades, who organise resistance, lead the looting of arms-shops and the seizure of arms and ammunition from houses, and in the midst of the uprising carry out those daring raids which so often throw the government party into confusion. In a word, they are the officers of the insurrection.
And now the good stuff:
It need scarcely be added that these conspirators do not confine themselves to the general organising of the revolutionary proletariat. It is precisely their business to anticipate the process of revolutionary development, to bring it artificially to crisis-point, to launch a revolution on the spur of the moment, without the conditions for a revolution. For them the only condition for revolution is the adequate preparation of their conspiracy. They are the alchemists of the revolution and are characterised by exactly the same chaotic thinking and blinkered obsessions as the alchemists of old. They leap at inventions which are supposed to work revolutionary miracles: incendiary bombs, destructive devices of magic effect, revolts which are expected to be all the more miraculous and astonishing in effect as their basis is less rational. Occupied with such scheming, they have no other purpose than the most immediate one of overthrowing the existing government and have the profoundest contempt for the more theoretical enlightenment of the proletariat about their class interests.
The chief characteristic of the conspirators’ way of life is their battle with the police, to whom they have precisely the same relationship as thieves and prostitutes. The police tolerate the conspiracies, and not just as a necessary evil: they tolerate them as centres which they can keep under easy observation and where the most violent revolutionary elements in society meet, as the forges of revolt, which in France has become a tool of government quite as necessary as the police themselves, and finally as a recruiting place for their own political mouchards [snitches].
I came across this passage, specifically the second paragraph, via Walter Benjamin (who quotes it to describe Baudelaire’s politics) being quoted in Gayatri Spivak’s “Can the Subaltern Speak?” She quotes it to describe the politics of Foucault and Deleuze.
Those of us who had lived through the struggles of the factory workers in the early 60s looked on the student protests with sympathetic detachment. We had not predicted a clash of generations, though in the factories we had met the new layer of workers—especially young migrants from the South—who were active and creative, always in the lead (certainly compared to the older workers who were exhausted by past defeats). But in the factories, the bond between fathers and sons still held together; it was among the middle classes that it had snapped. This was an interesting phenomenon, but not decisive for changing the structural balance of forces between the classes. At Valle Giulia, in March 68, we were with the students against the police—not like Pasolini. But at the same time, we knew it was a struggle behind enemy lines, to determine who would be in charge of modernization. The old ruling class, the war-time generation, was exhausted. A new elite was pressing forward into the light; a new ruling class for the globalized capitalism that lay in the future.
The remarkable youth of 68 did not understand—nor did we, though we would grasp it soon enough—this truth: to demolish authority did not automatically mean the liberation of human diversity; it could mean, and this is what happened, freedom specifically for the animal spirits of capitalism, which had been stamping restlessly inside the iron cage of the social contract that the system had seen as an unavoidable cure for the years of revolution, crisis and war.
Mario Tronti, “Our Operaismo”
So if we take Tronti’s prescience at face-value, what he already detected during 1968 was intercapitalist competition within generational struggle. With the ambivalence that marks the entire essay, Tronti shows how the Old Fordist CEOs were being challenged by those who would later extract surplus value from Foxconn workers and pageclicks: their children.
But that move, to hate your mother and father, sounds like a statement that’s overtly counter to everything feminism has tried to develop theoretically over the last century. In the move from “born of woman” to “adopted by the father” there’s a rejection of the genealogical tie, there’s a rejection of materiality and semantic tie, and that rejection of the materiality and the genealogical is always a rejection of the female and the mother. To paraphrase Irigaray, it’s an old dream of transcendence. Is this the price of universalism: a revival of old-fashioned patriarchy?
–Linda Alcoff, in a response to Slavoj Zizek
Features my piece on DC go-go CD vendors, and some of the #Occupy stuff that the kids are into these days. Behind a paywall, but maybe in the spirit of giving, you’ll find it in your heart to send $6-8 to radical alternative media.
Bolded the meaty bits for the TL;DRers:
With the victory of the Russian Revolution, and the collapse of the Hohenzollern and Habsburg empires in central Europe, key theorists of German communism came to believe that, in the aftermath of the First World War, the seizure of power by the proletariat was on the immediate agenda in every imperialist country, because the world had now definitively entered the historical epoch of the socialist revolution. This belief was most fully and forcefully expressed by Georg Lukács, then a leading member of the exiled Hungarian Communist Party, writing in the German-language theoretical review Kommunismus in Vienna. For Lukács, there was now a ‘universal actuality of the proletarian revolution’, determined by the general stage of the development of capitalism, which was henceforward in mortal crisis. ‘This means that the actuality of the revolution is no longer only a world- historical horizon arching over the self-liberating working class, but that revolution is already on its agenda . . . The actuality of the revolution provides the key-note of the whole epoch.’ This fusion — confusion — between the theoretical concepts of historical epoch and historical conjuncture allowed Lukács and prominent colleagues in the KPD such as Thalheimer and Frohlich to ignore the whole problem of the concrete preconditions for a revolutionary situation by abstractly affirming the revolutionary character of the time itself. On this premise, they went on to argue for a novel practical tactic: the Teilaktion or ‘partial’ armed action against the capitalist State.
Within the ranks of the Second International, Bernstein and co-thinkers had maintained the possibility of ‘partial’ ameliorations of capitalism by means of parliamentary reforms, that would in a gradual process of evolution eventually lead to the peaceful completion of socialism. The illusion that the inherent unity of the capitalist State could be divided or attained by successive partial measures, slowly transforming its class character, had been a traditional prerogative of reformism. There now, however, emerged an adventurist version of the same fundamental error in the Third International. For in 1920-21, Thalheimer, Frohlich, Lukács and others theorized putschist ‘partial actions’ as a series of armed attacks against the bourgeois State, limited in scope yet constant in tempo. In the words of Kommunismus: ‘The principal characteristic of the present period of the revolution lies in this, that we are now compelled to conduct even partial battles, including economic ones, with the instrumentalities of the final battle’, above all ‘armed insurrection’. There was thus created the famous theory of the ‘revolutionary offensive’.Since the epoch was revolutionary, the only correct strategy was an offensive one, to be mounted in a series of repeated armed blows against the capitalist State. These should be undertaken even if the working class was not in an immediately revolutionary mood: they would then precisely serve to ‘awaken’ the proletariat from its reformist torpor. Lukács provided the most sophisticated justification of these adventures. He argued that partial actions were not so much ‘organizational measures by which the Communist Party could seize State power’ as ‘autonomous and active initiatives of the KPD to overcome the ideological crisis and menshevik lethargy of the proletariat, and standstill of revolutionary development’. For Lukács, the rationale of the Teilaktionen was thus not their objective aims, but their subjective impact on the consciousness of the working class. ‘If revolutionary development is not to run the risk of stagnation, another outcome must be found: the action of the KPD in an offensive. An offensive signifies: the independent action of the party at the right moment with the right slogan, to awaken the proletarian masses from their inertia, to wrest them away from their menshevik leadership by action (in other words organizationally and not merely ideologically), and thereby to cut the knot of the ideological crisis of the proletariat with the sword of the deed.’
The fate of these pronouncements was rapidly settled by the lesson of events themselves. The radical misunderstanding of the integral unity of capitalist State power, and the necessarily all-or-nothing character of any insurrection against it, naturally led to disaster in Central Germany. In March 1921, the KPD launched its much vaunted offensive against the Prussian State government, by falling into the trap of a badly prepared rising against a preventive police occupation of the Mansfeld-Merseburg area. In the absence of any spontaneous working-class resistance, the KPD desperately resorted to dynamiting actions designed to prove police bombardments; seizure of factories and street fighting followed; wandering guerrilla bands submerged any discipline in anarchic forays through the countryside. For a week, heavy fighting raged in Central Germany between KPD militants and the police and Reichswehr units mobilized to suppress them. The result was a foregone conclusion. Isolated from the rest of the German proletariat, bewildered and dislocated by the arbitrary character of the action, hopelessly outnumbered by the concentration of Reichswehr troops in the Merseburg-Halle region, the vanguard flung into this confrontation with the full might of the army was routed. A drastic wave of repression succeeded the March action. Some 4,000 militants were sentenced to prison, and the KPD received its quietus in Prussian Saxony. Not only was the objective of State power never achieved, but the subjective impact on the German working class and the KPD itself was calamitous. Far from rousing the proletariat from its ‘menshevik lethargy’, the March Action demoralized and disillusioned it. The vanguard zone of the Merseburg mines relapsed into a desert of apolitical backwardness.
Helpfully, Anderson provides some contemporary criticisms of Teilaktionen by some people who knew something about successful revolutions.
A purely mechanical conception of the proletarian revolution — which proceeds solely from the fact that the capitalist economy continues to decay — has led certain groups of comrades to construe theories which are false to the core: the false theory of an initiating minority which by its heroism shatters ‘the wall of universal passivity’ among the proletariat, the false theory of uninterrupted offensives conducted by the proletarian vanguard as a ‘new method’ of struggle, the false theory of partial battles which are waged by applying the methods of armed insurrection and so on. … It is absolutely self-evident that tactical theories of this sort have nothing in common with Marxism. To apply them in practice is to play directly into the hands of the bourgeoisie’s military-political leaders and their strategy.
And Lenin, a bit more tersely:
…for victory and for retaining power, what is essential is not only the majority of the working class — I use the term working class in its West European sense, i.e. in the sense of the industrial proletariat — but also the majority of the working and exploited population. Have you thought about this?
It may be ruled out that immediate economic crises of themselves produce fundamental historical events; they can simply create a terrain more favourable to the dissemination of certain modes of thought, and certain ways of posing and resolving questions involving the entire subsequent development of national life.
…the content is the crisis of the ruling class’s hegemony, which occurs either because the ruling class has failed in some major political undertaking for which it has requested, or forcibly extracted, the consent of the broad masses (war, for example), or because huge masses (especially of peasants and petit-bourgeois intellectuals) have passed suddenly from a state of political passivity to a certain activity, and put forward demands which taken together, albeit not organically formulated,add up to a revolution. A “crisis of authority” is spoken of: this is precisely the crisis of hegemony, or general crisis of the State.
Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks
The acid house explosion provided an inspirational moment for the London underground, participants in which were taking squats and throwing parties amid the sensorial atmosphere enhanced by new technologies, music, and drugs. Under a novel soundtrack and mindscape, these were adventurous times in which a bizarre range of disused government and industrial buildings were occupied. Circus Normal held several huge events in 1990 in a bus garage in Camberwell reputed to be endowed with the largest single-space roof in Europe. Circus Lunatek broke into and occupied a NatWest bank in New Cross and a Barclays in Brockley, South London, in 1991. They would even occupy a police station garage in Elephant & Castle, South London, with Jiba, Vox Populi, and Bedlam sound systems in 1992, and admitted themselves to a ballet school in Kent with Bedlam and others in 1993.
-Graham St John, Technomad: Global Raving Countercultures
While the Occupy movement excavates its history of successful political actions, as Julie McIntyre points out we should also incorporate into this narrative the “libidinal disruptions” and cultural productions that characterize interventions into militarized space. The golden age of rave is over (many claimed it was over by the Nineties), but squat raves persist, while sloughing off some of the more carnivalesque trappings of old. Whereas the early squat ravers’ militancy was mostly semiotic, in the language of their flyers and track titles, a generation growing up under the militarized police forces of neoliberalism often take things a step or two further. Attendants at this 2010 squat rave successfully repulsed attacks by riot police.
The soundtrack is stripped of any new ageism of early rave, just caustic beats with the repeated refrain of “fuck the police.” As we all know, this slogan was popularized by N.W.A., whose own militant aesthetic arose from the then-extraordinary military-style repression that characterized the LAPD’s pursuit of the “War on Drugs.” An earlier L.A. rap song on this topic, Toddy Tee’s “Batterram” from 1985, had a more bemused tone than NWA, but served as a nationwide warning call to ghettos across the U.S.: “New York, it’s coming. Detroit, it’s coming. L.A., it’s coming – no, it’s here!” over the diesel churn of LAPD’s military hardware.
Another song of similarly striking prescience is IDC’s “This Is Not A Riot” from 2009, which begins with a clip from “V for Vendetta,” which, through the use of its imagery by the hacker collective Anonymous, has become associated with the #Occupy movement. The track samples another police military device, the Long-Range Acoustical Weapon (LRAD) used at the protests in Pittsburgh of that year’s G20, and more recently during the raids on occupations in Boston and New York. It splices this with protester chants of “Disobey your orders.” These were directed at the cops breaking up the protest, but their decontextualization in the song destabilizes the command: it is now free-floating injunction to refuse. The shrill chirping of the LRAD melds into the oscillations of the Roland TR-303 synthesizer which characterized acid house. The music had anticipated militant sonics and had been preparing us.
At the front lines of squat raving, Spiral Tribe faced enormous police repression. In 1992, when riot police amassed outside their party space — an abandoned UniChem warehouse in London — ravers barricaded themselves inside. The police broke through the wall, not with a battering ram, but with a JCB Digger. A witness recounts a scene that echoes contemporary Oakland, Manhattan, Boston:
At this point, there were about 750 people in the building – all trying to escape the vicious onslaught from the police. A panic started as people tried to crush through one small exit. Instead of alleviating the crush, the police pushed up hard behind everyone, hitting out and forcing everyone face down to the ground. Some people were singled out and given further severe beatings. The police then started on the equipment that had been lent or donated destroying it needlessly.
The local hospital reported up to 700 casualties amongst the party goers with one policeman injured. 5 arrests were made – for assaults on police officers and for breach of the peace. No charges were made against Spiral Tribe.
One of those casualties was a teenager who was thrown off the roof by officers, breaking both his arms and legs. As arrestees were marched past the police, a man with an American accent boasted that in the States, his squad would have emptied the building in twenty minutes. Police forces were colluding on an international scale in cracking down on rave. A Spiral Tribe communique pondered, “Why should a ‘civilized nation’ wish violence upon its youngest citizens for listening to a stigmatized beat? The question baffles most police constables and ravers alike. No-one can see what the problem is. Unless of course for reasons known only to themselves, the archaic powers that be feel the stability of their regime threatened by the strange music and dancing.” Their apparent bafflement comes from analysis that has just missed the mark: it wasn’t the music that mattered to the powers-that-be, and it wasn’t the dancing, not exactly. What’s becoming clear in 2011 is that what really threatens the archaic powers that be, what invites police violence out of all proportion, is engaging in collective social practices independent of state and market, rejecting capitalist commerce and openly mocking property rights. May we continue this proud, global, collective tradition. As Detroit’s Underground Resistance puts it — illegally, using MLK’s copyrighted enunciations for a decidedly non-nonviolent purposes — “Now is the time.”