IV

We must abandon all models, and study our possibilities.

—E.A. Poe

The necessity of insurrection. Not in the sense of inevitability (an event that must take place sooner or later), but in the sense of a concrete condition of possibility. The necessity of the possible. Money is necessary in this society. Yet a life without money is possible. To experience this possibility it is necessary to destroy this society. Today one only experiences what is socially necessary.

Curiously, those who consider insurrection to be a tragic error (or an unrealistic romantic dream) talk a lot about social action and areas of freedom for experimentation. One only has to squeeze such arguments a little, however, for all the juice to come out of them. As we said, in order to act freely it is necessary to be able to talk to each other without mediation. And about what, how much, and where can one engage in dialogue at the present time?

In order to discuss freely one must snatch time and space from social obligations. After all, dialogue is inseparable from struggle. It is inseparable materially (in order to talk to each other it is necessary for us to take time and seize the necessary space) and psychologically (individuals like talking about what they do because that is how words transform reality).

We forget we are all living in a ghetto, even if we don’t pay rent and every day is a Sunday. If we are not capable of destroying this ghetto, the freedom to experiment will be a poor thing indeed.

Many libertarians believe that social change can and must come about gradually, without any sudden rupture. For this reason, they talk of ‘areas free of the State’ in which to elaborate new ideas and practices. Leaving aside the decidedly comical aspects of the question (where does the State not exist? how do you put it in parentheses?), you can see that the point of reference for such questions remains the self-managed federalist methods experimented by subversives at particular times in history (the Paris Commune, revolutionary Spain, the Budapest Commune, etc.). What one omits to say, however, is that the possibility of talking to one another and changing reality was taken by the rebels with arms. In short, a small detail is left out: insurrection. You cannot remove a method (neighbourhood meetings, direct decision-making, horizontal linking up, et cetera) from the context that made it possible, or even draw it up against the latter (e.g. ‘there is no point in attacking the State; we must self-organise, make utopia concrete’). Before thinking about what the proletarian councils signified for example—and what they could signify today—it is necessary to consider the conditions under which they existed (1905 in Russia, 1918–21 in Germany and Italy, et cetera). These were insurrectional times. Will someone please explain how it would be possible for the exploited to decide in first person on questions of any importance today without breaking social normality by force? Only then will you be able to talk about self-management or federalism. Before discussing what self-managing the present productive structures ‘after the revolution’ means, it is necessary to be aware of one simple thing: neither the bosses or the police would agree to it. You cannot discuss a possibility while omitting the conditions required to make it concrete. Any idea of freedom implies a break with the present society.

Let us see one last example. Direct democracy is also talked about in libertarian circles. One could retort that the anarchist utopia opposes itself to the method of majority decision. Right. But the point is that no one talks about direct democracy in real terms. Leaving aside those who pass it off as quite the opposite, i.e. the constitution of civic lists and participation in the municipal elections, let us consider those who imagine real citizens’ assemblies where people talk to each other without mediation. What would the so-called citizens be able to express? How could they reply differently, without changing the questions? How make a distinction between so-called political freedom and the present economic, social and technological conditions? No matter how you twist things, you cannot escape the problem of destruction, unless you think that a technologically centralised society could at the same time become federalist, or that generalised self-management could exist in the true prisons that the cities of the present day have become. To say that all the changes that are necessary could be done gradually merely confuses the issue. Change cannot even begin to take place without widespread revolt. Insurrection is the whole of social relations opening up to the adventure of freedom once the mask of capitalist specialisation has been torn off. Insurrection does not come up with the answers on its own, that is true. It only starts asking questions. So the point is not whether to act gradually or adventuristically. The point is whether to act or merely dream of acting.

The critique of direct democracy (to stick to the same example) must be concrete. Only then is it possible to go beyond and think that the social foundations of individual autonomy really exist. Only then is it possible for this going beyond to become a method of struggle, here and now. Subversives need to criticise other people’s ideas and define them more precisely than those who swear by them.

The better to sharpen their daggers.

Posted By

GrouchoMarxist
Jun 1 2012 20:15

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