Berlin. No, no long treatises on Stuttgart. Rarely a riot has explained itself so directly. Anyone who has gone through this state of emergency in recent months with their eyes open has been able to see it all. The first days of mass internment: streets that had become deserted in Kreuzberg, every 2 minutes a cop car passes by, the crews look at you with mistrust if you are still on the road. In the dark corners of the new building ghettos small groups of young people who have nothing else to see each other. The almighty cops with that last pinch of power that was still missing to finally be able to reprimand, control and lock up everyone. You could see it in their faces, body language tells more than a thousand words. There is no longer any need for reasons and justifications, the infection protection law as a manual of a totalitarian state.
Intoduction submitted to Enough 14 in German. Introduction written by Sebastian Lotzer. Introduction translated by Enough 14. The Plague written by Cesare Battisti. The Plague translated by Autonomies.
Yes, they were able to lock up billions of people and the middle class pack and a gaga left stood on the balconies every evening and applauded for this show. But at the peak of its power development, every Empire is most vulnerable, a historical experience. People who are accurate soon understood that the poor and black people, the people with shitty jobs, have a multiplicity of victims and that you can not only choke from a shitty lung infection, but also when cops kneel on you for minutes. In Africa, they have set fire to cop stations for weeks, as soon as all the Covid 19 stuff started. But nobody here was interested, it’s just Africa, where they also die of Ebola and Aids and who cares.
But when the cops escaped from their mid-size cop compound and the thing went up in flames in the country with the biggest military power in the world , millions of people around the world immediately noticed and understood. From there it was only a small step to the riot in Stuttgart. Neukölln was a nice story, but the really important things have been going on beyond left chessboard manoeuvres for a long time . A few hundred proletarian youths and the republic is upside down.
What follows is the translation of a recent text by Cesare Battisti, former militant of the armed resistance in Italy, who unfortunately is currently in prison in Italy after decades of escaping the persecution mania of the Italian state security forces. How refreshingly clear and meaningful, like so many texts from France and Italy that I have had the honour of translating (Sebastian Lotzer translated the original Italian version into German, Enough 14). In this country, it is preferred to publish a dozen or so babbling books on the subject. From Berlin with love.
In this text somewhere between poetry and politics, Cesare Battisti takes as a starting point Camus’ novel The Plague, to give us his contribution to the work barely started since the beginning of the Great Enclosure of half of humanity, to try to answer the question: “What is happening to us?” To which should be added, “What is happening to us that is still not finished?”
Albert Camus’s words are precious in the days of the coronavirus. They make us feel close at hand the anguish of the families separated by the “Plague” of Oran, in his Algeria of the immediate post-war period. It is, as we know, a never sufficiently celebrated metaphor for Nazism, which had just been defeated, but whose resilient germs will continue to threaten humanity, awaiting the next faux pas.
The plague arises like a war or a brutal change of regime. It locks people in, confines them. It is a calamity, however, that does not rise up from nowhere; it hides in the interstices of a weak society, accustomed to abuse, intoxicated. It is in homes, on the streets, in workplaces and in offices of power, in the misleading use of words, in the absence of rights so dear to our national populism. It is in the shortcomings of democracy, whose lacunae are filled by those who find in a momentary conjuncture the legitimisation for their use of force. It is in the eyes closed to the pain of the other.
The plague has always been there, at the doorstep, but we did not see it. We persisted in believing that it only cut down distant victims. How important are a million dead, when you have not even seen one? The cultural hegemony of our time is that of the simplification and the trivialisation of everything, and this contrasts with the complexity of the world which we seek. We separate things from their context, and we find a supposed solution for this bit of reality, as if it were not a part of everything else.
Meanwhile, the disinherited suffocate. In the name of order and progress, we destroy natural equilibria. Camus’ rats come out of the sewers of Oran to die in the sun; chased from caves, Wuhan bats flee in search of light. And wars continue to be unleashed, the south of the planet to be devastated, and fascist supremacism is back in fashion. Viruses are born in the heart of indifference. And one day, without forewarning, we find ourselves alone.
We are told that we must remain locked up in the house, that from now on it will be forbidden to shake hands. We can see no one from the window, we miss the noise of traffic, under a sky that has become too blue. It has to be an ephemeral moment, we delude ourselves into hearing the doorbell again and kissing our loved ones who left on a trip shortly before. But time passes and the pandemic grows, segregation becomes heavy, the forecasts give the shivers. We then prepare for the outcome, for the end, suffering from unexpected shortcomings, pushing back inadequate feelings. This is how exiles rediscover themselves, in regretting the values from which they have suddenly been separated. What was obvious and negligible is, from one day to the next, an unbearable deprivation. We feel defenseless, we entrust ourselves to the State-boss, which each day feeds the people-children television. They tell us that it is all over, then that it starts again, that it’s the fault of a kiss given without a mask. We must remain alert, denounce the transgressors. We introduce the culture of suspicion, salvation lies in denunciation, in the recovery of the Economy. Courage, the virus will be tamed, the evil has no future, we will continue to grow, the world belongs to us, the crowd pours into the street, joy returns, we will all go to the beach to warm our pale buttocks.
Camus’ Dr. Rieux remains at his window. He looks and smiles. He knows what the crowd ignores and what can be read in the history books. Viruses and bacilli are like fascism, they do not die, they never disappear, they remain hidden, on the watch until the day when, through the fault of men or bad teachings, rats and bats come to spread their blood in western regions. And then, there will be no more land even for exile.
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