To Joaquín García Chanks and Marcelo Villarroel Sepúlveda, comrades and co-conspirators.
… every revolutionary opinion draws its strength from the secret conviction that nothing can be changed.
George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier
“Alice: How long does it last, forever?
White Rabbit: Sometimes just for a moment.”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Discontent is the new starting point of the impetuous popular protests that run across the geography of the globe. Hong Kong, France, Algeria, Iraq, Haiti, Lebanon, Catalonia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Chile, are the lavish protagonists of the wave of massive urban revolts that are shaking the world.
While it is true that these profuse protests have very particular detonators that explain them (specifically Hong Kong and Catalonia, with their independentist fancies), it would be naive to think that this accumulated rage is disconnected. The increase in the cost of goods and services, coupled with austerity – with its consequent loss of jobs and unequal economic survival as global growth slows down – are the common denominator of most of these mobilizations.
However, it is undeniable that these protests also share another significant backdrop that far exceeds economic analysis and that very conveniently is not addressed by the means of mass domestication and intentionally escapes the analysis of political scientists and apologists of domination: anti-government convulsion, an exhaustion with those who govern and, against all political parties, whatever their ideological color. A feature that forces the absence of leadership and/or leaders and facilitates the ephemeral realisation of Anarchy.
Undoubtedly, the specific features of these last antagonistic movements a priori excite many comrades and fellow anarchists, who continue to analyse events through the lens of ideology and remain stranded in uneasy nineteenth-century paradigms. There is nothing more lethal to ideologies than reality itself.
Obviously, that old model of anarchist society that was shaped around a framework of values, a prototype of society, a project of change and a corresponding practice, can no longer be replicated in our day.
As comrade Alfredo Bonanno well pointed out in one of his conferences held in Athens, entitled The Destruction of Work: “The first thing we must eliminate from our minds is to think that in the future, even in the case of the revolution, there is something to inherit from State and Capital. Remember the analyses of older comrades, of twenty, thirty years ago, when it was thought that through the revolutionary expropriation of the means of production from the hands of the capitalists and their handing over to the proletarians – duly educated in self-management -, that we would create the new society? Well, this is no longer possible.»(1)
Today, it is not enough to multiply spontaneous revolts, nor to generalise the strike, nor to have the triumph of a Social Revolution, nor to expropriate the means of production and invert the pyramidal structures of domination, for the conditions of self-managed and libertarian coexistence to materialise as an immediate possibility.
However, we cannot settle only for pointing out that the old struggles are no longer valid today.
Again, we continue to have the same inability as always to cross the line and pass once and for all to the other side; the inability to get past the dead end that Power provides, to free ourselves from ourselves, to untangle the path and finally renounce turning upon ourselves. We then have to thoroughly review our historical scaffolding, remove the rotten and/or the boards eroded by time and replace them with solid and fresh timbers.
We will have to rethink Anarchy or, to think against thinking. To invert the diagrams. To think – Deleuze reminds us from Hell – is to “send off an arrow every time from oneself at the target that is the other, to make a ray of light shine in the words, to make a scream be heard in visible things. To think is to see what reaches its limit, and to speak one’s own (…) it is to issue singularities, to throw the dice. The dice roll expresses that thinking always comes from outside (that outside that was already sinking into the interstices or constituted the common limit). Thinking is not something innate or acquired. It is not the innate exercise of a faculty, but nor is not a learning that is constituted in the outside world.“
For those of us who were teenagers in that iconic year of 1968 – and for those who exceed me in years and who lived it throwing cobblestones or in much more engaging scenarios -, the exuberant revolts that occupy us today provoke in us a kind of déjà vécu, that is, that feeling of having “already lived” it, that history repeats itself or of having faced that same experience in the past.
Indeed, mass mobilizations are not new. The 68 demonstrations were also massive and formed an overwhelming, anti-authoritarian movement – never planned and much less promoted by the churches of the official anarchism of that time – that overflowed the political and economic coordinates that expressed it, giving life to a civilisational crisis that put in check disciplinary society and anticipated the crisis of the capitalist world of the 1970s and the collapse of the welfare state.
Then followed the protests – equally massive – against the war in Indochina (Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia). Subsequently, the Italian May of ‘77 would come, followed by the anti-nuclear demonstrations and, to close the century, in 1999, a chain of mobilisations against so-called “globalisation” were unleashed internationally (Seattle, Washington, Prague, Quebec, Genoa, Barcelona, Thessaloniki, Warsaw, Guadalajara) extending until 2004.
With a much closer date in time, we saw the massive mobilisations and the occupation camps of the 15-M movement, also baptised as the “movement of the Indignant” (2011-2015) in Spain and, its replica, the Occupy Wall Street movement (from 2011-2012); as well as the protests in Syntagma Square in Athens and those carried out by the Nuit debout movement in Paris and, even more recently, those of the “yellow vests”.
Despite the rebellious spirit that animated them and their manifest spontaneity, all of these mobilisations (without exception) exhausted their powerful momentum by recreating the Marxist dialectic of constituent power and they came to an end trapped in the mechanisms of capture of the system of domination. As comrade Bonanno reminds us, “The machine of ’68 produced the best officials of the new techno-bureaucratic state.”(3)
Herein lies the portentous capacity for co-option by the structures of domination of social movements, an inexhaustible source of restoration.
Thus, we saw the transformation of the “movement of the indignant” in the squares of Spain into Podemos [Spanish leftist party], and to become the defenders of law and order on behalf of the humble; and into Syriza [Greek leftist party], leaving the squares of Athens and implementing the austerity policies of the European Union, becoming its faithful executor once in government. Or, into the Nuit debout calling for the creation of a new constitution and, into the Occupy Wall Street movement, swelling the ranks of Bernie Sanders in his contest for the White House.
In fact, once this tally of past protests and mobilisations is made, some uncertainty arises that invites us to question whether we are really perceiving a déjà vécu, that is, if history is really repeating itself and if we have the absolute certainty that these experiences have happened before or, whether we are experiencing a change of memory that has us believe that we remember situations that have never happened and that we are truly facing a phenomenon never seen, never heard, nor even dreamed of before.
If in May of 68 the protests were inspired by a constituent utopia – like the the string of mobilisations mentioned above; the absence of a utopian perspective is evident in the current mobilisations that are shaking the world. Anger and despair have no utilitarian motivations, they are neither political nor ideological, they are “irrational”, they go beyond intra-political negation and are driven by a dystopian tension.
Although at times the protest is confounded and confused with citizenship demands promoted by parties and unions – always ready to join the predominant populist reaction -, the negative excess that emerges from it articulates repressed passions and the erotic force of sedition, creating volatile insurrectional subjectivities that give life to Anarchy, subverting order and causing crises in the apparatuses of capture.
Snapshots of the Chilean revolt (first approach) (5)
Since October 18 of the current year, Chile has become the epicenter of the Latin American insurrection, giving us real street battles against militias and police minions. After fifteen days of unrelenting revolt, the generalised insurgent fire has managed to disrupt the unclean normality that prevailed after the rigged “transition to democracy”, after long years of fascism, taxes of blood and fire by the military-corporate dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.
Without a doubt, the generalised insurrection that exists in Chile today is the face of despair, the nihilistic gesture of those who have abandoned waiting, the explosion of anarchic rage that we have sensed since the beginning of the century, a large movement feed by subversive affinities, a set of accomplices and co-conspirators with a vivid presence and practical experience around the world.
Beyond the thousands of graffiti’s of a fist-in-the-air that today encourage the continuation if the rebellion in the cities of Santiago, Valparaíso and Concepción, the conflict manifests itself in multiple ways throughout the Chilean region.
In Santiago, in addition to the mobilisation of 1.2 million protesters who have made the news the world over – with its performative effects and its symbolic magnitude -, regular attack on the icons of domination has materialised, discharging all the anger contained against the capitalist multinationals, destroying merchandise, burning dozens of public transport buses, vehicles and buildings, sabotaging and burning subway stations and carrying out numerous mass expropriations in shops and supermarkets.
Continuing with the symbolic assaults, the television channel “Mega” was attacked three times by young people, masked and with incendiary devices. A statue in honor of the police was blown to pieces in the Barnechea district, along with so many other monuments – iconic symbols of domination – that have been destroyed in countless squares in the country.
Similarly, rivers of protesters have repeatedly tried to take La Moneda, facing the fierce response of militias and police. The assault on the government house has become the main objective of the social insurrection, leading some to recall the taking of the Winter Palace, something that should call us to reflect.
Notes for a collective reflection
Why would we have to storm La Moneda? Our purpose is not to take palaces but to demolish them. Or what is the same: to subtract or remove ourselves from Power. That is, to crush every vestige of constituted power and abort any attempt at a constituent power.
In this sense, it should be very clear that the convergent efforts of the red pacos [police] and other agents of the left of Capital, with their Social Unity Board and their insistent calls for a plebiscite, for “a new Constitution with binding citizen participation” and, for the creation of a Constituent Assembly; like the controlling attempt of the Allendist Movement for a New Constitution (6); or the repulsive convocation of the Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front to “the patriotic military, to the conscious police officers” to “subordinate themselves to the people and contribute to the struggle and termination of bad governments”(7); and the screaming schizoids of the Libertarian Left and, Socialism and Freedom crying for “popular unity”. Not only are they alien to our fighting goals but they represent a new attempt to perpetuate domination and strengthen Capital “with a human face”, an effort that we must fight with the same impetus with which we face the constitutions of power.
Even before the call of the most radical wing of armed social democracy, the so-called Manuel Rodríguez-Autónomo Patriotic Front (FPMR-A) and the Revolutionary Left Movement-Guerrilla Army of the Poor (MIR-EGP), it is not only our task to keep a healthy and very sceptical distance, but also to confront by all possible means their offer of Popular Power.
Unfortunately, there are still companions who insist on the “social” nature of the contemporary revolt and maintain their expectations in a pretend –and unrealizable in our day– libertarian society that, as Alfredo pointed out in the aforementioned conference: “I am convinced that even if “anarchy were realized”, anarchists would be critical of that constituted anarchy. Because that anarchism would be an anarchist institution, and I am sure that the vast majority of the comrades would be against that kind of anarchism”(8)
For many of the lovers of social struggle, from the multiple and particular interpretations of anarchism, we must “understand that the struggle against capital has several fronts and forms of action” in order to move forward “towards the future, our future.”(9)
This affirmation is not only difficult to “understand”, but to digest from the contemporary anarchic perspective, without succumbing to reformist positions of a clear social democratic nature. Without a doubt, the members of the editorial group of this zine – and those who to so almost six years later – still have faith in “our future” and for that, they do not skimp on forming alliances with “other revolutionaries” and participating on “several fronts” and in different «forms of action».
Unquestionably, when looking for alliances, the objectives are modified through the political justification of the struggle: a “better future”; this, without noticing that faith in the future is essential to perpetuate domination. To always live in the future is precisely the traditional method of not living here and now, moving away forever from the permanent conflict implicit in the contest of anarchic warfare. That was what our Novatore has warned us of for a century!
In the background, behind this positioning, the outdated institutional aspirations are sheltered. Faithful to the echo of the siren songs, we intuit in them as couplets of praise for freedom – which always reverberate at the dawn of every Revolution – ignoring that they are really hymns of praise to the new constituent Power.
Then, the naive elucidations will come in search of motivations and causes of “deviations”, of “betrayals” and the old history of the “betrayed revolution” will be repeated until exhaustion, instead of seeing that the Revolution has never been (nor will it be) on the side of freedom but in the service of Power because every revolution is intrinsically instituting.
The Robespierres, the Committee of Public Salvation, the Lenins, the Stalins, the Castros, the KGB, are not changes or deformations of the so- called “revolutionary processes”, but their natural consequence.
Hence, our compulsive obsession to “reinvent” Anarchy, to restore theory – but above all to practice – it’s emancipatory power. Nothing more obscene in our day than abandoning Anarchy in the name of a vulgar version of postmodern “libertarian communism” to which we are invited as an alternative. We must dismantle the fetishes that keep us stranded and give up the alternatives (all alternatives for sale). Any alternative to Anarchy is a sign of stagnation and a cowardly exit that seeks to perpetuate domination under the insidious mask of transformations.
Unfortunately, the distorted view of ideology – strongly entrenched in our stores – still invites many to conceive of anarchism as a realization (which “lasts forever”), instead of admitting that it is a dystopian tension that provides us moments of Anarchy that we have to extend through the right kind of attack; but in order to crystallise the attack, to materialise the destructive will, the prior organisation of the anarchic insurrection is required; that is to say, the informal articulation of small affinity groups capable of coordinating and intervening anarchically during a spontaneous insurrectional movement is needed.
Only in this way do we give life to Anarchy in those ephemeral interruptions of all “normality”, extending the illegal mood, spreading chaos to the last consequences, destroying work and all the pillars of domination.
As White Rabbit (Alice in Wonderland) reminds us: forever sometimes only lasts for a moment and it is in that time period that we must blow up all the bridges of return, burn all the return ships and burn the merchandise, demolish the recovery machine. For this we must be prepared, even if Anarchy is merely realised for a fleeting instant, knowing that its existence is only occasional.
The goal is not to fight to establish anarchism. The essential thing is to live Anarchy in the daily struggle with that vital passion that floods us and enhances our uncompromising action, reminding the victors of the present that they will NEVER sleep in peace again.
Planet Earth, November 2, 2019.
1) Lecture given at Pantio University, Athens. Alfredo M. Bonanno, Domination and Revolt, Second edition revised and corrected with additions, Edizioni Anarchismo, Trieste, 2015. pp. 139-176
2) Deleuze, Gilles, Foucault, Ediciones Culturales Paidós, México, 2016, pp. 151-152.
3) Bonanno, Alfredo M., Armed Joy.
4) Here, again, make the distinction of the cases of Hong Kong and Catalonia, where the motivations are political and ideological.
5) For more info – Anarquía Info (https://anarquia.info), ContraInfo (https://es-contrainfo.espiv.net) and, ANA (https://noticiasanarquistas.noblogs.org/)
6) Proto Stalinist Alliance formed by the Communist Party-Proletarian Action (PC-AP), Christian Left (IC) and, the Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR).
7) FPMR, “A provisional government, a constituent Assembly, new constitution.” Available at: https://www.fpmr.cl/web/ (Accessed 1/11/19).
8) Op.Cit., Alfredo M. Bonanno, Domination and Revolt, pp. 139-176.
9) VP, La Peste Collective, “The organization in the social struggle: a libertarian critique”, Originally published in Peste zine, No. 11, May 2013, republished by those who insist on the same canon on January 22, 2019 in Portal Oaca, Available at: https://www.portaloaca.com/opinion/14123-la-organizacion-en-la-lucha-social-una-critica-libertaria.html (Accessed 1/11/19).
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