The Insurrection to Come (Comité invisible)
November 21, 2008
This translation is an excerpt from a radical new book that has just appeared in France by the Invisible Committee (Comité invisible). The book discusses the local appropriation of power by the people, the physical blocking of the economy, and the elimination of the police force as practical routes toward insurrection.
The commune is the basic unit in a life of resistance. The insurrectionary surge is probably nothing more than a multiplication of communes, their articulation and inter-connection. Depending on how events develop the communes regroup in larger entities, or fractionalize into smaller ones. The difference between an affinity group of brothers and sisters connected to life and death and the coming together of multiple groups, committees, and crews to organize the supplies and self-defense of a neighborhood, or even a region, in revolt is only a difference of scales. All these groups are basically communes.
A commune can only move towards self-sufficiency and experience money within it as something useless and ultimately out of place. The power of money is to create a connection between those who are unconnected, to connect strangers as strangers and thus by creating an equivalency between all things to put all things in circulation. The cost for the power of money to connect everything is the superficiality of the connection where deceit is the rule. Distrust is the basis for the credit relation. The empire of money must therefore always be the empire of control. The practical abolition of money can thus only be achieved by extending the communes. Extending the communes must be done while taking care that the commune does not surpass a certain size beyond which it loses contact with itself, and inevitably generates a dominant group. In that case the commune would prefer to split up and to extend in this way, while avoiding unfortunate power issues.
Fan the Flames of Every Crisis
Terrorist threats, natural disasters, viral alerts, social movements and urban violence, are for those who manage society, moments of instability when they validate their power by selecting those they like and by destroying those that embarrass them. These are thus logical occasions for other powers to gather and to build-up by taking the opposite side. The interruption of the flow of merchandise, the suspension of normality and of police control liberate a potential for self-organization unthinkable under normal circumstances. It is enough to see the wonders a black-out can do for the return of social life in a single building, to imagine what could happen in a city deprived of everything. People are not blind to this. The revolutionary workers movement understood it too and took advantage of the crises of bourgeois economy to strengthen its might. Today, Islamic parties are never as strong as when they manage to intelligently use the weakness of the State, by for instance, providing aid to earthquake victims in Algeria, or in daily assistance to the population of Lebanon attacked by the Israeli army.
The devastation of New Orleans by hurricane Katrina gave North American anarchists the opportunity to gain a new visibility by rallying all those who resisted the forced evacuations. Setting-up food distribution and soup kitchens showed that people had thought of supplies ahead of time; setting up health clinics demands already having the necessary skills and materials, same for setting-up pirate radios. Such experiences are extremely fruitful politically as they bring joy, a feeling of community, a tangible reality outside of the established order and work.
In a country like France, we should count less on natural disasters than on social crises. It is the social movements that most often get to interrupt the normal course of disasters. Of course in recent years various strikes were mostly occasions for the government and corporate management to test their capacity to maintain larger and larger minimum service to the point of rendering work stoppages to a purely symbolic dimension, barely more cumbersome than a snow storm or a suicide on the railways. The high-school students struggle of 2005 and the fight against the CPE-law upset established militant practices. They replaced them with systematic occupation of buildings and obstinate blockades, reminding everyone that large movements can have a capacity for nuisance and diffuse attacks. They left numerous affinity groups in their wake, showing the conditions under which mass movements can become places of emergence for new communes.
Blockade the economy, but measure our blocking power by our level of self-organization
By the end of June 2006 multiple city halls and public buildings were occupied by the popular insurgence in the State of Oaxaca. In certain municipalities mayors have been deposed and official vehicles requisitioned. A month later the access to many hotels and tourist complexes are cut-off. The minister of Tourism of Mexico talks about a disaster comparable to hurricane Wilma. A few years earlier, the blockades became the main form of action for the movement of revolt in Argentina, with different local groups helping each other by blocking such and such arterial, and constantly renewing the threat of paralyzing the entire country if their demands were not met. Such threats had been for years a powerful source of leverage for groups such as the railroad workers, truck drivers, electrical and gas supply workers (in Europe). The movement against the First Employment Law (CPE) in France did not hesitate to blockade train stations, highways, factories, supermarkets and even airports. In Rennes, only three people were needed to block the main access to town for hours and caused a 40 kilometer-long (30 miles) traffic-jam.
Blockade everything; this should be from now on the first reaction of anyone standing against the present order. In a de-localized economy where companies function thanks to a constant flux of materials and goods, where value derives from connectedness to the network, where the highways are links in the chain of dematerialized production which moves from sub-contractor to sub-contractor and from there to another factory for assembly, to block production means to block traffic circulation.
But a blockage can only go as far as the capacity of the insurgents to feed themselves and to communicate, as far as the effective self-organization of the different communes. How will we feed ourselves once everything is paralyzed? Looting stores, as it was done in Argentina, has its limits; as large as the temples of consumption are, they are not infinitely full of food stuffs. Thus acquiring, in the long term, the skills to provide for one’s own subsistence implies appropriating the necessary means of production. In this light, there is no need to wait any longer. To leave to, as it is today, two percent of the population the task of producing the food for everyone else is both a historic and a strategic idiocy.
Liberate territory from police occupation; Avoid direct confrontation as much as possible
This case shows that we are not dealing with youth demanding more social services, but with individuals who have declared war on the Republic, noted a lucid cop about recent clashes in France. The attack aiming to liberate the territory from police occupation has already started, and is being fed by the endless amounts of resentment that the forces of order have provoked. Even the social movements are slowly taken by the riots, just like the ravers in Rennes who fought the riots cops every Thursday night in 2005, or more recently the partying crowds of Barcelona who destroyed a shopping street during a botellion. The movement against the CPEsaw the regular return of the Molotov cocktail. But on that front, certain disadvantaged suburbs remain unsurpassed. Namely, they have perfected the technique of the trap. For example, on October 13 in Epinay (a poor suburb of Paris), a police crew responding to a call, found itself blocked by two vehicles on the roadway and by over thirty people carrying metal bars and brass knuckles who lobbed stones at the police vehicle and used tear gas against the policemen. On a smaller scale, neighborhood sub-stations have been attacked when closed at night and on weekends: broken windows and burned-out police vehicles.
Another achievement of recent movements is the understanding that a real demonstration from now on must be wild, meaning un-permitted, and un-announced to the police. Being able to choose the terrain, we can, like the Black Block of Genoa in 2001, bypass the red zones, avoid direct confrontation, and being able to decide the route ourselves, make the cops strain to chase us instead of being herded by the police, including that of the syndicates or the pacifists. In Genoa we saw a thousand determined people make entire buses of carabinieri retreat, only to be set on fire in the end. The important thing is not to be better armed, but to have the initiative. Courage is nothing, the confidence in one’s own courage is everything. Having the initiative helps tremendously.
If a confrontation cannot be avoided it doesn’t mean that it cannot be turned into a simple diversion and opportunity to strike elsewhere. In addition to thinking about actions, we must think about their coordination. Harassing the police means that by forcing them to be everywhere they cannot be effective anywhere.
Each act of harassing the police revives the truth about them expressed in 1842: The life of the police agent is painful; his position in society is as humiliating and despised as crime itself. Shame and infamy encircle him from all sides, society has expelled him, isolated him as a pariah, society spits its disdain for the police agent with his payment, without remorse, without regrets, without pity. The police badge that he carries in his pocket documents his shame. On November 21, 2006, firemen demonstrating in Paris attacked the riot police with hammers and injured fifteen of them. This should be a reminder that having a desire to help others can never be an excuse for joining the police.
Depose the authorities locally
The goal for any insurrection is to become irreversible. This can be achieved by beating authority at the same time as beating the need for authority, beating property along with the taste for appropriating, beating hegemony along with the desire for hegemony. That is why the insurrectionary process carries in itself its victory or its failure. Destruction has never been enough to make things irreversible. Everything is in the method. There are ways of destruction that provoke inevitably the return of that which has been abolished. Where the economy is blocked and police are neutralized, little emphasis is needed on the toppling of the authorities. They will easily be deposed.
In our times, the end of centralized revolutions reflects the decentralization of power. Winter Palaces still exist but they have been relegated to the assaults of the tourist— not the revolutionary hordes. Today it is possible to take over Paris, Rome, or Buenos Aires without it being a decisive victory. Taking over Rungis (the transit and storage facility for all merchandise in Paris) will certainly be more effective than taking over the Elyse (seat of the government). Power is no longer concentrated in one point in the world; it is the world itself, its flows and its avenues, its people and its rules, its codes and its technologies. Power is the organization itself of the metropolis. It is the perfect totality of the world of merchandise in all of its incarnations. Anyone who opposes power locally creates a wave of planetary shock through the world’s power networks. Keep on fighting! All power to the communes!
the full book in French or English translation is available for download here