The Coming Insurrection

This tract by The Invisible Committee came out last year in French, was translated into English & published by Semiotexte (also out now in German, btw.) An excellent day-after Thanksgiving read — cleans & clears the head, the palate & the gut from all the turkey-triptophane induced somnolence. Read up on revolution’s possibilities — you got nothing to lose but your hang-overs! Below, the opening paragraphs. Read the full text here.

From whatever angle you approach it, the present offers no way out. This is not the least of its virtues. From those who seek hope above all, it tears away every firm ground. Those who claim to have solutions are contradicted almost immediately. Everyone agrees that things can only get worse. “The future has no future” is the wisdom of an age that, for all its appearance of perfect normalcy, has reached the level of consciousness of the first punks.

The sphere of political representation has come to a close. From left to right, it’s the same nothingness striking the pose of an emperor or a savior, the same sales assistants adjusting their discourse according to the findings of the latest surveys. Those who still vote seem to have no other intention than to desecrate the ballot box by voting as a pure act of protest. We’re beginning to suspect that it’s only against voting itself that people continue to vote. Nothing we’re being shown is adequate to the situation, not by far. In its very silence, the populace seems infinitely more mature than all these puppets bickering amongst themselves about how to govern it. The ramblings of any Belleville chibani contain more wisdom than all the declarations of our so-called leaders. The lid on the social kettle is shut triple-tight, and the pressure inside continues to build. From out of Argentina, the specter of Que Se Vayan Todos is beginning to seriously haunt the ruling class.

The flames of November 2005 still flicker in everyone’s minds. Those first joyous fires were the baptism of a decade full of promise. The media fable of “banlieue vs. the Republic” may work, but what it gains in effectiveness it loses in truth. Fires were lit in the city centers, but this news was methodically suppressed. Whole streets in Barcelona burned in solidarity, but no one knew about it apart from the people living there. And it’s not even true that the country has stopped burning. Many different profiles can be found among the arrested, with little that unites them besides a hatred for existing society – not class, race, or even neighborhood. What was new wasn’t the “banlieue revolt,” since that was already going on in the 80s, but the break with its established forms. These assailants no longer listen to anybody, neither to their Big Brothers and Big Sisters, nor to the community organizations charged with overseeing the return to normal. No “SOS Racism” could sink its cancerous roots into this event, whose apparent conclusion can be credited only to fatigue, falsification and the media omertà. This whole series of nocturnal vandalisms and anonymous attacks, this wordless destruction, has widened the breach between politics and the political. No one can honestly deny the obvious: this was an assault that made no demands, a threat without a message, and it had nothing to do with “politics.” One would have to be oblivious to the autonomous youth movements of the last 30 years not to see the purely political character of this resolute negation of politics. Like lost children we trashed the prized trinkets of a society that deserves no more respect than the monuments of Paris at the end of the Bloody Week– and knows it.

There will be no social solution to the present situation. First, because the vague aggregate of social milieus, institutions, and individualized bubbles that is called, with a touch of antiphrasis, “society,” has no consistency. Second, because there’s no longer any language for common experience. And we cannot share wealth if we do not share a language. It took half a century of struggle around the Enlightenment to make the French Revolution possible, and a century of struggle around work to give birth to the fearsome “welfare state.” Struggles create the language in which a new order expresses itself. But there is nothing like that today. Europe is now a continent gone broke that shops secretly at discount stores and has to fly budget airlines if it wants to travel at all. No “problems” framed in social terms admit of a solution. The questions of “pensions,” of “job security,” of “young people” and their “violence” can only be held in suspense while the situation these words serve to cover up is continually policed for signs of further unrest. Nothing can make it an attractive prospect to wipe the asses of pensioners for minimum wage.  Those who have found less humiliation and more advantage in a life of crime than in sweeping floors will not turn in their weapons, and prison won’t teach them to love society.  Cuts to their monthly pensions will undermine the desperate pleasure-seeking of hordes of retirees, making them stew and splutter about the refusal to work among an ever larger section of youth. And finally, no guaranteed income granted the day after a quasi-uprising will be able to lay the foundation of a new New Deal, a new pact, a new peace. The social feeling has already evaporated too much for that.

(…ctd)

Read the full text here.

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3 opinions on “The Coming Insurrection”

  1. Sorry to sound skeptical, but e.g.: “We need to distinguish clearly between being armed and the use of arms.” Uh-huh.

    Listen, this is old stuff in a new garb. Very clever, very informed — and from where I’m sitting, it ain’t gonna work. If we could get more people to stop reproducing — that alone would do more good than a basketful of communes. On the other hand, I have no idea how to bring this about.

    1. I’m skeptical too, Joe! It’s old french Left plus some unsavory near-right revolutionary tales. It has of course a few good ideas, analyzes a certain specific French situation pretty well, but has no new vision or actual pragmatics for change. Still, interesting that some anonymous group (well, they are most likely people from the rural communes around Tarnac) will actually try to write a revolutionary pamphlet in these jaded times. Useful as palate-cleanser & warning system for old repetitions that need to be avoided, but all the more thought-provoking in terms of the need to imagine & propose needed changes.

      1. Pierre, thanks. Yes, that’s true, the “need to imagine & propose needed changes.” And it’s certainly the case that whoever this group is, they’ve done their homework and brought a sense of history to their undertaking. All the more curious that they don’t hear the rat-a-tat-tat of their ancien (sorry) revolutionary machinery. But you’re right — there are so many commentators commenting at present that we’re at an impasse — I would say myself that aspects of the US democratic “checks & balances” are no longer able to be checked (what with the filibuster, redistricting, etc) — so where to go from here. Small acts of local (and institutionally centered) resistance might catalyze real change, but short of another catastrophe, which is what the system we have thrives on in some sense (Naomi Klein and others), I’m not esp. hopeful. I’d venture though that if the left here in the US gets too worked up about Obama’s failures — he’s trying hard not to be a weak sister, in my view — things will only get worse. To observe as much is to risk charges of quietism, maybe, but I take Palin & Co. very, very seriously…

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